Leitrim recorded their first win of this year’s Connacht Minor League on Saturday last with an unexpected but thoroughly deserved victory over Mayo.
Leitrim 3-8 Mayo 1-9
After suffering defeats at the hands of Sligo, Roscommon and Longford, not many would have tipped Leitrim to emerge victorious in Pairc Sean Mac Diramada but despite getting off to a bad start, Leitrim recovered well and proved too good for Mayo.
Mayo may point to the fact that they were reduced to 14 players midway through the opening half when Cian Burke was issued with a straight red card for an off the ball foul on James Rooney but it would be unfair on the Leitrim players to suggest this was the difference between the teams.
The home side bossed proceedings for the majority of the game with Donal Wrynn and Feilim McHugh excellent in midfield while Niall Brady and in particular James Rooney proved to be a constant thorn in the side of the Mayo defence.
While the general consensus was that the home side were the better team over the course of the 60 minutes, it was the visitors who made the better start as they struck for a goal within 20 seconds of the throw-in.
Having won possession Mayo launched an immediate attack which looked ominous for Leitrim as Stephen Conroy ran at the heart of the defence. Showing great awareness Conroy played a perfectly timed pass to wing-back Kevin Lynch whose fine run was matched by the quality of his shot which flew past Leitrim goalkeeper Brendan Flynn.
The home supporters could have been forgiven for fearing the worst but with the game still less than a minute old the teams were level. Padraig Gallagher did well to shake off the attention of his marker before finding Niall Brady and the Glencar/Manorhamilton forward clinically dispatched his shot to the Mayo goal.
That score helped settle any Leitrim nerves and they began to bring the game to Mayo.
Leitrim should have enjoyed a greater lead but three successive wides ensured there was only the bare minimum separating the sides and Mayo levelled matters in the seventh minute when Shane Hennelly pointed and that was followed by an Adam Gallagher point as Mayo retook the lead.
Leitrim continued to apply plenty of pressure to the Mayo goal but had only two further wides to show for their efforts before Mayo were reduced to 14 players. Referee TJ Keaveney was perfectly placed to see the foul committed by Cian Burke on James Rooney and he deemed the foul to be worthy of a straight red card.
Now enjoying a numerical advantage Leitrim continued to bring the fight to Mayo but suddenly they were proving to be more accurate in front of the posts. Three points in as many minutes from Niall Brady, Donal Wrynn (free) and Nicholas Moore put three points between the sides and with nine minutes of the half remaining, Leitrim appeared to be in a strong position.
However, as the half reached its closing stages Mayo began to show their teeth for the first time with Adam Gallagher and Sean Regan looking particularly dangerous and in the final moments of the half Eoghan Lavin (free) and Brian Mullin both pointed to reduce Leitrim’s advantage to a solitary point as they led 1-6 to 1-5 at the half-time break.
With little to separate the teams at this stage Leitrim drew level with a fine individual point from Niall Brady but that was cancelled out by a Patrick Durcan point as Mayo regained their slender advantage.
At this stage of the game Mayo were arguably playing the better football but just when they needed a moment of inspiration Leitrim struck for their second goal of the game.
Niall Brady found substitute Aaron McLoughlin who produced an excellent looping shot that sailed over Mayo goalkeeper and dropped just under the crossbar to once again leave Leitrim in the ascendancy.
With just four minutes left victory was all but secured for Leitrim when James Rooney struck for Leitrim’s third goal. Rooney ran with power and pace past three Mayo defenders before delivering an unstoppable shot past the Mayo goalkeeper.
That proved to be the final score of the game as Leitrim registered a morale boosting win after a series of disappointing results to claim a deserved victory.
Leitrim will look to build on this win when they travel to Tuam next Saturday to face Galway in their final Connacht Minor League fixture before attention well and truly turns towards the Connacht Championship meeting with Roscommon in Pairc Sean MacDiarmada on June 23.