On the One Road

The road trip could have been worse. For some time, Leitrim  supporters thought they would have to be in Newry for a 2pm throw-in in the Qualifier on Saturday and then at the final whistle hotfoot it to the Hyde for the Minor Championship. At least common sense and a bit of co-operation ridded us of the chances of speeding tickets and we can now have our afternoon tea at home on Saturday before crossing the bridge and then an early Mass and breakfast Sunday before heading north for what we hope will be a double.

I’d say you’d get good odds on that bet. How come it’s always that way with Leitrim? No matter how promising a team might be, come championship time the green and gold is predicted to bite the dust.

How unfair is that on our Minor team that takes to the field against the Rossies, a team they have beaten – as well as Sligo, Mayo and Galway – on their way to capturing this year’s Connacht League title? “Ah, the Championship will be a different story” is a frequent comment in GAA circles. Indeed, such a remark would have been on the lips of some of our own followers — but don’t dare say it to Enda Lyons, his selectors or any of their players. Thank God, they have faith, as have CoistenanÓg officers and they face Roscommon with real confidence and very real expectations of a victory, hard-fought though it will be.

History will not be weighing heavily on our Minor side, none of whom will remember the last Connacht Minor Championship victory in 1998. All of them would have been in the cradle or the creche that day, so they are carrying no baggage about Leitrim not winning two in a row or whatever. They have the added advantage though of having their Manager Enda Lyons who actually played with the winning minor team in 1998 to give them a clear insight of what the Connacht Minor Championship is all about. For the rest of us, 1998 seems quite a while back, though Enda Lyons is still between the sticks for Carrigallen, the midfield pairing that day, Michael Duignan and Gary McCloskey, are still starring in the same position for Bornacoola, as well as other team members like John McKeon who still wear their club jerseys with distinction, so they are well known to the Minor panel and would have come up against them on the field of play. So the Minors won’t feel as if they are trying to exorcise ghosts of the past and they know they are as least as good as their own age group from Roscommon, who sat the same Leaving Cert exams, went to the same Discos or maybe even the same schools. Just watch the body language of the Leitrim players as they run out on to the Hyde, which means be there to lend your support.

Sean Hagan and his men have their work cut out for Sunday. But hold it — when the Qualifier Draws were made, didn’t all the experts predict that Derry and Down had Lady Luck on their side, drawing Longford and Leitrim at home. A cake walk into Round II they said. Derry, who had been in the Allianz Division I Final and a Down team that rattled the Tyrone net several times in their drawnÓgame. We should take a leaf from Longford’s book and head off North to win, not to put on a good show, or to be happy not to take a hammering, but to win.

Down looked very ordinary in the replay against Tyrone, Leitrim looked good in the second half against Roscommon, the last Championship appearances of both teams, so it would be foolish to give up just yet.

The Leitrim squad has taken a couple of whammies once again, but it’s the panel that togs out in Newry that really matters and the fifteen or twenty one who carry the jersey into the fray. One thing we can be sure of, is that they will play their hearts out.

On Sunday morning don’t be looking up at the sky and saying “I think it will rain, I’ll stay at home and catch it on Shannonside or Ocean FM; anyway Newry is an awkward place to get to”. That’s just making excuses. Instead, say to yourself “It would kill me not to be there to see them beat Down”.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats being there.

 

 

26-Jun-14 by Leitrim GAA