Leitrim clear the way to meet Galway

Bank of Ireland Connacht Football Championship

Leitrim 1-11 Sligo 0-9

A terrific second half performance from a young Leitrim team propelled the county into a Connacht semi-final meeting with Galway on June 12th as Leitrim recorded their first championship win in Pairc Sean since 1991 amid scenes of much jubilation.

Inspired by their outstanding full back line, and Drumreillys John Mc Keon in particular, Leitrim delivered their finest performance in many years to cause the first upset of the 2005 championship. Although Sligo had travelled South on the back of a poor league campaign, their recent championship form and a string of impressive results in challenge games, suggested that Dessie Dolans inexperienced charges would be no match for a team that included All Star Eamon O Hara at midfield and players such as John Mc Partland, Gerry Mc Gowan and Mark Brehony who had starred on the national stage in recent years.

Indeed the game seemed to be following the expected script as Sligo dominated long periods of the first half and led by 0-6 to 0-2 with just a couple of minutes to go to half time. In truth they should have been much further ahead, but a string of bad wides in the difficult conditions (ten in all) was to prove their ultimate undoing. The attendance of 9,548 had seen Leitrim struggle for most of the opening period as Sligo won a lot of ball in the middle third of the pitch and the home side struggled to find their feet. A James Glancy point from play and a free from Michael Foley were Leitrims sole rewards for thirty minutes of endeavour, but when Declan Maxwell finally received the type of ball that had frustrated Roscommon in Leitrims last league outing, the game was turned on its head.

Leitrims best period of the half started in the 32nd minute when Maxwell won the ball brilliantly in front of Noel Maguire and kicked right footed over the Sligo bar. Two minutes later, the ball was in his hands again and his precise pass to Johnny Goldrick gave the Carrick man a one on one chance against the Sligo keeper from an exceptionally difficult angle. All of Carrick inhaled as Goldrick pulled the trigger and brilliantly found the net to send the huge home support wild. It was a goal of much class and sent the teams to the dressing room on level terms as Leitrim suddenly began to believe.

Leitrim went on to dominate the second half for long periods, but initially struggled to find their shooting boots and with much less possession, Sligo found themselves two points to the good with twenty minutes remaining. But you always sensed that this was to be Leitrims day and we finally saw this Leitrim team kick into overdrive in the last quarter of an hour. The introduction of Gortleterraghs Darren Duignan was the catalyst as he kicked two superb scores that seemed to inspire those around him.

With quality ball now finding Maxwell on a regular basis, the Sligo defence simply couldn t handle the Drumreilly man and two further points from him, two more from James Glancy and a brace of frees from Michael Foley sent thousands of ecstatic Leitrim supporters Scórrying on to the pitch as the referee brought the curtain down on a terrific Leitrim performance.

Its now on to Pearse Stadium in three weeks time and while Leitrim have much to work on between now and then, the fighting spirit and never say die attitude of this bunch of players will give Leitrim supporters great hope ahead of their meeting with the Tribesmen.

Leitrim: Cathal Mc Crann, Michael Mc Guinness, John Mc Keon, Dermot Reynolds, Niall Gilbane, Barry Mc Weeney, Shane Foley, Chris Carroll, Gary Mc Closkey, Johnny Goldrick (1-0), Barry Prior, Michael Foley (0-3f), James GLancy (0-3), Colin Regan, Declan Maxwell (0-3). Subs: Darren Duignan (0-2) for Gilbane.



23-May-05 by Lovely Leitrim