Bank of Ireland Football Championship, Round 2
Leitrim 1-8 Meath 1-12
Leitrim almost pulled off one of the great shocks of this year?s championship when they pushed Leinster kingpins Meath to within 30 seconds of a sensational championship exit.
In an extraordinarily tense Round 2 Qualifier game at a packed P?irc Se?n Mac Diarmada, Leitrim found themselves a point ahead of one of gaelic football?s biggest names with injury time running out. It was then that Meath hero Ollie Murphy, himself an All Ireland medal winner, who had just come off the bench got his first touch of the ball and shot a dramatic equaliser for the Royal County to break Leitrim hearts and send the game into extra time.
A deflated Leitrim never recovered from this hammer blow, falling two points in arrears at half time in extra time and whenÓgraham Geraghty scored an opportunist goal at the start of the second period of extra time, the game was over as a contest.
However, it was a Herculean effort from an ever improving Leitrim team. With Darren Duignan and Gareth Phelan earning starting places at the expense of the unfortunate Cathal Mc Crann and Niall Gilbane, Leitrim?s line up showed only two changes from the team that had pushed Galway all the way in the Connacht semi-final.
From early on it was obvious that this was going to be a real battle of wills, as the difficult weather conditions ensured that scores would be kept to a minimum and while free flowing moves may have been a rarity, the action was intense and the excitement reached fever pitch during that incredible finish. As has been their wont, Leitrim started slowly and Meath registered two points in an opening quarter of an hour that was dominated by the Leinster Giants.
With Meath enjoying the lion?s share of possession, it was the tight marking and tigerish defending of Leitrim?s much vaunted full back line of Dermot Reynolds, John Mc Keon and Michael Mc Guinness that prevented the Royals from establishing a more commanding lead. The Leitrim team slowly began to find their feet and points from Michael Foley, Declan Maxwell and James Glancy gave the Connacht team a 0-3 to 0-2 lead after half an hour. Geraghty levelled for Meath approaching half time, but Drumkeerin?s Michael Foley had the last say of the half edging Leitrim 0-4 to 0-3 ahead at the break.
With the wind at their backs in the 2nd half, Meath were expected to move up a gear and with Stephen Bray and Brian Farrell particularly prominent they moved two points in front after quarter of an hour. It looked as if the Leitrim challenge was fading, when James Glancy ? a Championship revelation for Dessie Dolan?s team this year ? rescued a ball from the endline and cut past two Meath defenders to slot home a wonderful solo goal to send the Carrick on Shannon faithful into raptures.
Paul Byrne did equalise for the Royals and the final ten minutes were played out with tension rising as chances went abegging at both ends. With the game moving into injury time, Mohill?s Daniel Beck scored a wonderful point and it seemed that the impossible was about to become reality. But Meath are renowned as outstanding championship battlers and when the talismanic Murphy got the ball in his hands, what would have been a famous Leitrim victory was cruelly denied as he split the posts with a wonderful point.
A deflated Leitrim never really looked as sharp in extra time and in fairness the visitor?s were worthy winners. Late points from substitute Donal Brennan and a Foley free were however further evidence of the fighting spirit of this group of Leitrim players and although the curtain came down on Leitrim?s championship ambitions on Sunday afternoon, it was the most promising campaign for Leitrim supporters since the heady days of 1994 and Connacht Championship glory.
Leitrim: Cathal Mc Crann, Michael Mc Guinness, John Mc Keon, Dermot Reynolds, Colin Regan, Barry Mc Weeney, Shane Foley, Chris Carroll, Gary Mc Closkey, Johnny Goldrick, Barry Prior, Michael Foley (0-4, 3 frees), James Glancy (1-1), Darren Duignan and Declan Maxwell (0-1). Subs used: Donal Brennan (0-1), Daniel Beck (0-1), Niall Gilbane, James Mc Gowan
04-Jul-05 by Lovely Leitrim