Raising the Bar.
The Qualifier Draw is done. Were off to Newry to meet last years All Ireland Finalists. You couldnt raise the bar much higher than that, so lets go. How often have we bemoaned playing the same teams year after year in the National League, wishing we could reach the higher divisions and play with the big boys. Nows our chance, so let us stop talking about a tough draw; about a typical unlucky call for Leitrim; about how it would have been better to be pulled out against London or Antrim or Offaly; about how a local derby with Longford would have been ideal – almost as if we should shiver at the thoughts of Laois or Meath. Or Down! Are Longford trembling at the thought of meeting Tyrone? Not at all, they are licking their lips at the prospect of being pitted against one of the best ever All Ireland winners. Should Leitrim feel otherwise? Dont go on about it being a pity we didnt get Down at home. Páirc Seán is not exactly a Leitrim fortress, we have been bushwhacked there several times; we could design a mural of close calls and last minute defeats on the boundary wall. In Markievicz Park just weeks ago the team played with abandon. The players seemed at ease, there were no hang-ups, they moved the ball quickly, they backed each other up, they went for scores, they were confident on the ball, they rallied when the pressure came on, they won! Everybody talked of a new Leitrim. We were a real part of the 2011 Championship story. Of course we were all wise after the game, saying we knew theyd do it. Loose talk. If we were that sure, wed have been kicking in the doors at the bookies to back them at the 5 to 1 odds. Suddenly we were oozing with confidence and for the game in Carrick we put little value on Roscommon, we were marking our diaries for the Connacht Final. Our plans became unstuck, there was no repetition of the flair displayed against Sligo, many went home disgruntled. We were out of the Connacht Championship and back into the Qualifiers. At least, after the first round games, we could be happy about something “we wont have to keep being reminded that Londons only Championship win was against Leitrim,” away back in the mists of 1977. We will be reminded, of course, that Leitrim has yet to win a Qualifier game and little time was spent by the analysts in predicting who will win in Newry. There could only be one result, Down. Thats what was forecast for their game against Clare too, but they only got out of Ennis by the skin of their teeth. Obviously Clare did not expect to win, as only a handful of die-hard home supporters bothered to turn up. Not a great Act of Faith in their team! A little self-belief is what Mickey Moran, Martin McGowan and Brian Breen will be drilling into their players as they prepare for Newry. Sure theres nothing to lose, just go out and play with the same confidence that they displayed against Sligo, forget about the David and Goliath references, seize the moment, make a piece of history. What an incentive it must be for the players to be lining out against really new opposition, a team that hit the headlines last year, that came so close to bringing Sam back across the border. Thats why every man in a green and gold jersey will be raising the bar.
30-Jun-11 by Tommy Moran