ILEN ROVERS captured their first adult county title in 1995 when their minor footballers won the Minor B Football Championship title after defeating Newtownshandrum in Carrigadrohid following a replay.
This success ushered in an unprecedented era of success for the Carbery club who firmly established themselves as one of the top teams in the county.
Pat Whooley, who captained the minor footballers to county final glory in November 1995, can still recall the huge significance of their breakthrough victory.
“It was a huge win for the club. It was a great feeling to lead the team to county glory. It meant so much to the club. The scenes after the match were unreal. There was such an outpouring of emotion. When you see grown men crying, you realise the importance of our win.”
Ilen Rovers, who were founded in 1973, quickly followed up their minor county success with an array of championship titles at divisional and county level and the club quickly progressed to the senior ranks in 2004.
Those teams were backboned by the vast majority of the minor footballers who helped their club win a county league and championship double in 1995.
Whooley acknowledges the sheer enormity of that county championship title.
“Success in those days was very rare for the club. It was a young club. Winning the first adult county title was a huge moment and a massive lift for the club. It helped create a winning mentality and the club enjoyed great success in the following years.”
Whooley played a key role in their minor county success in 1995 and, along with John Davis, carved out a midfield partnership that was integral to their success. Lifting the county minor title represented a huge moment for the proud Ilen Rovers club man.
“It was a great achievement. It was lovely from a personal perspective. It was a very proud moment. There were huge crowds at both matches which helped create a great atmosphere.
“The two games were cracking games. It was nice to come out on top following two great games. It is nice to have these memories and look back at old pictures and match reports from that great season.
“There was a great bond between all the players in that squad. We marked the 20th anniversary of that win five years ago and it was great to meet up again with the players.”
Ilen Rovers defeated a gallant Newtown outfit by one point following a dramatic replay played on November 19, 1995, winning by 3-10 to 4-6 thanks to a late Brian O’Sullivan goal.
“Brian got a great goal. It was a move started deep in our half by Conor Minihane. Kieran Daly carried it on before laying it off to Brian who fired a powerful shot into the net. We had to work so hard to beat a very good Newtownshandrum team.
“They had the O’Connor twins playing for them. They were brilliant footballers. I was marking Jerry at midfield and he was very good. Newtownshandrum pushed us all the way. A lot of their players enjoyed very successful hurling careers with both Newtownshandrum and Cork. We had to dig deep to win the county title.”
A plethora of the Ilen Rovers minor team proceeded to enjoy great success at various grades, winning junior county and intermediate county titles before reaching the senior grade in 2004.
The football odyssey continued for Ilen as they reached the senior county final in 2007, before narrowly succumbing to Nemo Rangers. A lot of the team also played senior and junior football for Cork.
“We had a very strong team. We won our first SW Junior A Championship title the following year and the club drove on from there. The minor success acted as the catalyst for a great period for the club.
“The vast majority of the minor players advanced to play senior, whichwas great. Diarmuid Duggan, Kieran Daly and Brian O’Sullivan played for Cork. There was a great spirit in the panel and we had a lot of top quality players.”
Ilen were coached to the minor double by Anthony Evans and Jason Whooley.
“We had a nice mix on the sideline. Jason was a top player and he was a huge role model for the players. Anthony is a club stalwart and they worked very well together. They are both great ambassadors for the club.”
Ilen completed the double when they again defeated Newtown in the county league final by two points following another epic clash. Two goals from Fachtna O’Driscoll were the defining moments in this game.
“Newtownshandrum must have been sick of us by the end of that season. Winning the double galvanised the club and inspired us to greater success.”