A seven point defeat at the hands of your fiercest rivals is never easy to take, no matter what the competition. The fact that Leitrim trailed Roscommon by six points at the interval and seven at the game’s death in last Saturday afternoon’s Hastings Cup Shield Final in Lanesboro gives the impression there was very few positives Leitrim could take from the encounter. However, Leitrim more than played their part in this fixture and the performance in the second half, inspired by half-time substitues Shane Moran and Conor Beirne saw Leitrim level the game and ensured the contest would go to extra-time.
By Philip Rooney
Unfortunately Leitrim ran out of steam in extra-time and never threatened in the manner they had in the second half. The extra-time display and indeed the lacklustre first half display won’t have overly impressed the Leitrim management team but they will no doubt have been encouraged by what they witnessed in the second half.
After an opening half hour that saw Leitrim play without the intensity and urgency that was so evident when they were unlucky to be beaten by Cavan, Roscommon deservedly led by six points.
The introduction of Beirne and Moran for the start of the second half lifted the Leitrim team considerably but it was more than just two changes that transformed the fortunes of the Leitrim team.
All over the pitch Leitirm looked hungrier and there was a determination that if they were going to be beaten they were at least going to restore some pride.
While the exploits of Moran and Beirne were pivotal in the second half, the sand out performer from a Leitrim persepective was Sean McWeeney who had an excellent game at centre half back. The number six position is one of the most important on the pitch and McWeeney delivered a fine display from. Whether helping out with defensive duties, linking up with the midfielders or breaking forward when the opportunities allowed, he seemed to be everywhere.
The wind and rain were not conducive to good football and the opening stages proved to relatively forgettable. Darren Clabby’s point within 10 seconds of the throw-in was cancelled out shortly afterwards by a Morgan Quinn free.
The game was almost 12 minutes old before the next score arrived but as the half progressed, Roscommon became more dominant although they were struggling to reflect that dominance on the scoreboard.
A Gerard Ennis free was followed by an outstanding point from Ciaran Murtagh but with just 10 minutes of the half remaining Donal Flynn pointed for Leitrim to leave just a point between the teams.
However, it was to be Roscommon who finished the half on in the ascendancy with points from Paddy Brogan, Christy Dineen (two) and Cian Connolly (two, one free) giving Roscommon a deserved 0-8 to 0-2 lead at the interval.
Not many of the loyal Leitrim supporters who made the journey to Laneboro on Saturday last would have held out much hope for any sort of a comeback but they would at the very least have been hoping for an improved performance.
Shane Moran, who played for NUIG the previous night against Mayo in the FBD league final and Conor Beirne who was so impressive for the Leitrim senior team last year were both introduced for the second half and Leitrim looked a new team when the got underway after the interval.
As well as the new faces, there was a new attitude for the second half. There was more hunger, desire and urgency on show from the Leitrim players and it wasn’t long before a resurgent Leitrim began to make their mark on the scoreboard.
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.