ILLISTRIN claimed a memorable cup final victory over Letterkenny Rovers thanks to a dramatic late extra-time winner from substitute James McSharry.
Letterkenny Rovers 1
With the sides level at 1-1, the game appeared destined for the dreaded penalty shoot-out but with less than two minutes remaining, McSharry’s superb back post header found the net to spark scenes of celebration among the Illistrin players at Dry Arch Park.
The victory was confirmed when referee Joe McHugh sounded the final whistle and Rovers had hardly time to respond. Defeat denied them back-to-back trebles in what was otherwise another fabulous season for Liam O’Donnell’s men winning the league title and the Champions League title.
But this was to be Illistrin’s day. And it got off to the perfect start when they opened the scoring on nine minutes. From the edge of the box, striker Kyle Keenan brought the ball under control with his chest before volleying an unstoppable shot in the top corner of the net beyond the reaches of goalkeeper Liam O’Meara.
The goal gave Illistrin something tangible to hold onto as they were forced to absorb huge amounts of pressure from the Rovers attack. The league champions - minus their Republic of Ireland U-15 international Gareth Doherty through injury - pressed hard with Kieran MacPherson, Simon McGlynn and Caolan McDaid all drawing saves from the excellent Rory Carr.
Rovers looked frustrated at times as they let opportunities slip by before eventually drawing level with a quarter of an hour remaining. On this occasion, Carr saved twice from MacPherson and then McGlynn before McGlynn did manage to poke the ball home at the second attempt.
They were certainly favourites to go on and win the final from that position and probably should have done in extra-time but McGlynn opted to shoot when a pass inside to the unmarked MacPherson was probably the better option.
But credit to Illistrin’s resolve. They stayed in the game and struck late with that McSharry goal to clinch the silverware.
Illistrin: Rory Carr, Ronan Crossan, Oisin O’Boyle, Lee Doherty, Paul Ferry, Darragh McWalters, Darragh Henderson, Conor O’Grady, Kyle Keenan, Odhran Bonner, Conan Dawson. Subs used - James McSharry and Odhran Davis
Letterkenny Rovers: Liam O’Meara, Ciaran Kelly, Pearse McLaughlin, Ciaran Maloney, Liam Blaney, Caolan McDaid, Paddy Diver, Sean McMonagle, Kieran MacPherson, Adrian Delap and Simon McGlynn. Subs used - Luke Neilis and BJ Banda.
Referee: Joe McHugh