In a summer when Leitrim’s senior footballers were eliminated by Mayo in their provincial Championship semi-final, the same fate fell upon the county’s young hurlers as the same opposition came away with a 2-8 to 1-5 win in last Wednesday’s Connacht U21B semi-final at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
A low scoring opening half saw the home side trail by four points at the break in an opening period that bore only a single Leitrim point courtesy of half forward Zemaku Moradi. Although Leitrim enjoyed a more prolific second half, two Mayo goals courtesy of substitute David Kenny were the difference between the sides.
Mayo dominated the opening exchanges and should have taken the lead just 25 seconds in when wing forward Darren McTighe used his pace to find space behind Leitrim’s Paddy Loughlin. Mayo’s Gearoid Keane opened Mayo’s scoring when Leitrim’s Conor Beirne surrendered possession to Keane on the 21 metre line.
Mayo dominated the opening half but were guilty of six wides but it took the home side ten minutes to threaten the Mayo goal, Morgan Quinn’s free from 40 metres sailing wide of Barry Lane’s post. Half forward Liam Moreton forced Lane into a good save on 12 minutes, shortly before Paul O’Grady doubled Mayo’s lead on 14 minutes with a point.
Olcan Conway’s men had to rely on a goal-line clearance after a fierce Keane drive toward goal was blocked away by a Leitrim hurl but he was not to be denied on 17 minutes as he sent his free between the posts to send the away side into a three point lead.
Keane struck once again in the 23rd minute, five minutes before Leitrim managed their first score. Moradi converted his own free from close range after Alan Galvin had pulled him back, the deficit standing at three points at the break at 0-4 to 0-1. Mayo introduced David Kenny to their half forward line and this move bore fruit just moments into the second period as he sent his side into a four point lead.
Both sides exchanged scores with Keane and Quinn twice swapping points but the away side struck a hammer blow on 44 minutes when O’Grady picked out Kenny inside the Leitrim square. The Tooreen native had only the goalkeeper to beat and coolly slotted the ball under Earley’s dive.
Despite a gallant Leitrim effort, the red and green went eight points clear through Kieran Kiely with 11 minutes remaining.
Quinn and substitute Keith Boyle pegged the lead back to six, but Mayo served up another killer score on 58 minutes when Kiely’s ball from the left was caught in mid-air by Kenny. Moving away from goal, Kenny turned, shot and sent the ball high into the Leitrim net.
The green and gold did eventually find the Mayo goal seconds from the final whistle as centre half Conor Beirne leapt highest among a crowd of Mayo defenders and fired the ball low and hard into the Mayo net minder.
Two goals behind, Leitrim went in search of scores but it was a case of too little too late as they bowed out on a final score-line of 2-8 to 1-5.
Joe Early; Paddy Clerkin, Conor Beirne (1-0), Paddy Loughlin; Patrick Clancy, Patrick McManus, Liam Greene; Sean McWeeney, Niall McLoughlin; Zemaku Moradi (0-1), Liam Moreton, Colm Moreton; Shane Moran, Shane Sorohan, Morgan Quinn (0-3). Subs used: Keith Boyle (0-1) for Moran (29 mins), Eamon Walsh for Sorohan (46 mins), Kevin Clerkin for L Moreton (51 mins), Cathal Keegan for Loughlin (51 mins).
Barry Lane; Jamie Grimes, Pat Kiely, Alan Gavin; Ciaran Finn, Damien Kedian, James Walsh; Nathan O’Malley, Kieran Kiely (0-1); Gearoid Keane (0-5), Colm Higgins, Niall McCarney; Darren McTighe, Paul O’Grady (0-1), Joseph O’Malley. Subs used: David Kenny (2-1) for Higgins (28 mins), Sean Griffin for O’Malley (46 mins), Marty Gallagher for Grimes (52 mins), Shane Boland for Keane (61 mins).
Referee: Gus Chapman.