Leitrim dreams of provincial glory in 2011 came to a crushing end last Saturday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada as a ferociously hard working County Minor team were swamped by a clinical if casual Galway in the Connacht Minor Championship Semi-Final.
By John Connolly
CONNACHT MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL
If the Tribesmen win was not quite of the scale of their win in the Connacht Minor League last April, it was just as comprehensive as Galway just had too much power and know-how all around the pitch for a Leitrim side that worked it socks off but never really threatened.
Damien Eames’ side needed a blistering start if they were to stop Galway but instead it was the visitors who got off to a flying start with 2-2 inside the first six minutes and from then on, it was all over bar the shouting.
It spoke volumes of the desperate dreams of Leitrim fans that a six point halftime deficit was regarded as a sign of hope for the second half but the reality was crushingly different.
Indeed, it was hard to escape the feeling that the Tribesmen were simply going through the motions for long spells of last Saturday’s encounter, always managing a response any time Leitrim got a score and never giving Leitrim a sniff of a goal.
The fact that Galway chose to rest star players Ian Burke and Sean Moran, only bringing them on as subs during the second half, reveals more of the gulf between this, it has to be admitted, very good Galway team and the home side.
You certainly couldn’t fault the effort put in by the Leitrim players, they worked themselves to a standstill, a fact that was particularly evident in the second half as Leitrim wilted under their ferocious work-load all over the field in the warm conditions.
Felim McHugh & Donal Wrynn tried manfully to carry the battle to the Tribesmen, their power and strength on the ball particularly evident on Saturday as they were able to break tackles and put the Galway defence on the back-foot with their hard running.
Wrynn scored six points from placed balls but was more than just a free-taker as the Fenagh St. Caillin’s player won a lot of ball and linked play extremely well in the middle of the field, the former Handball World Champion trying manfully in every sector of the field to get Leitrim going.
Drumkeerin’s Felim McHugh was exceptional during the first half, his surging runs from deep contributing three great scores from play and he proved a handful for the Galway midfield, winning a lot of ball in the middle of the park.
But once Galway brought on Sean Moran five minutes into the second half, Leitrim’s ability to break even in the middle of the field was seriously diminished as the first half efforts in closing down the space for Galway’s attackers also took its toll on the home side.
Whatever about the larger debate on standards in underage football in the county, the fact that Leitrim have now gone nine years without a win in the provincial minor championship underlines the difficulties facing the Senior team in the years ahead.
In fairness to this year’s Minors, 11 of the panel are underage next year and eight of the 20 players who saw action against Galway will be in the grade next year so there is a foundation to build upon.
But very much like our senior team, the standard of kick-passing and long range shooting is something that has to be addressed if Leitrim are make any impact on the inter-county stage as the tactic of running with the ball and hand-passing your way up the field only leads to dead ends and exhausted players.
That leads to a far deeper debate over what is being taught in the clubs at the first point of coaching but it is clear that Leitrim are slipping further and further behind their provincial neighbours in terms of what the soccer analysts would call “technical ability”.
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.