There have been few stranger home games for Leitrim down through the years in the Allianz League as the Green & Gold dominated last Sunday’s Division 4 clash against Waterford but were left wishing for the final whistle in a sparsely populated Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
Leitrim 0-14, Waterford 1-8
With one of the smallest crowds that Pairc Sean has ever witnessed for a competitive Leitrim fixture, Leitrim fought out a morale boosting victory in their last home fixture of the League campaign, a boost to a young team that has endured its fair shares of ups and downs in this campaign.
The margin of victory may have only been three points but Leitrim should have been far more comfortable than that, they were clearly the better team and at times showed the sort of movement and accuracy that bodes well for the future.
A five point opening salvo in the first 15 minutes, Robbie Lowe and Kevin Conlan showing great promise as a two man full-forward line, suggested bright things while Paddy McGowan’s continued development as a quality inter-county player continued impressively.
Fourteen points is an impressive return for any teams and with Emlyn Mulligan hitting eight points, seven from frees, and Ray Cox weighing in with two insurance points in the final minutes, Leitrim do have scoring potential.
Young Shane Moran did not seemed too over-awed on his first start with the Seniors while another debutant, Gary Loughlin from Glencar/Manor, contributed handsomely to the victory with a vital save in the closing minutes.
What will worry Leitrim was the fact that they allowed a weakened Waterford to stay in contention for far longer than they were entitled to and that when Waterford came charging through the centre in the closing stages, they made real gains and threatened on two occasions to grab a goal that would have undone all of Leitrim’s good work.
Too often Leitrim’s defence played themselves into trouble with poor passing, particularly hand-passing, and a more focussed opposition could have done a lot of damage.
But a win is a win and a win like this will add some badly needed confidence to the mind-set of a young team that is already gearing themselves up for a monstrous battle in Ruislip at the beginning of June.
In many ways, the strangeness of the small attendance and subdued atmosphere was typified by the almost incredible decision of Waterford to travel up on the morning of the game, a horrendous four to five hour journey that must have sapped the strength and freshness of the Munster men.
Equally telling of the Waterford mind-set was the decision of manager John Owens to rest six first choice players and give his fringe players a chance to impress ahead of their championship meeting with Limerick in the middle of May.
With little to play for, few would have disagreed with that decision and perhaps Leitrim might have done the same, many in the sparse attendance would like to have seen a sight of new addition Enda Williams but although the Longford man warmed up extensively, he didn’t see action on the day.
The trip to Fermanagh awaits next Sunday and a good performance against a team who might already have their eye on the Divisional final would be a huge boost for the Summer campaign.