Leitrim’s record in McHale Park is not that most Green & Gold supporters would rather forget but captain Paddy Maguire is hoping that the example of Sligo’s semi-final victory can inspire a similar shock result next Sunday when Mayo host Leitrim in Castlebar.
With Sligo winning in Pearse Park just over a week ago, Paddy believes that Leitrim can follow the example of their neighbours and set up a first ever Leitrim-Sligo Provincial decider.
“I think we just have to look at Sligo, the way they went to Galway and pulled out a great result there and now they are in a Connacht Final,” said Paddy, “They are a great inspiration, they came in under the radar and were totally written off.
“They went over to Galway and I thought Galway might have thought it was just a matter of turning up. Sligo believed in themselves that they could win the game and that gives us inspiration to think that we could do it as well.”
The Leitrim captain is not spouting mere platitudes but is definitely looking forward to what many regard as an impossible challenge – “I think everyone on the team and management are looking forward to this semi-final. We’ve prepared well for this, just as well as we did for the London game if not better.
“I think when you’re facing a Division One team, you’re expected to be that bit fitter, more clinical on the ball, the work-rate has to be higher. Everything has to be upped to a higher level because you’re playing a division one team, one of the top four in the country.
“We’re all definitely looking forward to it, it is a great experience and a great opportunity to get into a Connacht Final.”
The intense pressure that Leitrim came under to emerge from Ruislip earlier this month will only serve an inspiration to the Green & Gold – “Once you get a game under your belt, it brings you to a different level. It is great to get the first round of the championship over.
“I think it will stand to us going over to Mayo, that first game is always tough to get over especially London when you have to travel over there. They have so many good players and they have come on a sight.
“Every second person was saying to you that we wouldn’t have a chance I think because they ran Mayo so close last year and they’ve got better this year. They’re big strong men, they are physical and can take their scores, we saw that but I think in the second half against London, we had most of the possession.
“We showed great character, we never panicked and showed patience. Even down to the last five minutes and London a point up, we went up by two. We showed great composure on the ball at the right time to take the scores, didn’t lose the ball in critical places.”
The Leitrim captain is far from under-estimating the size of the task ahead – “James Horan has Mayo in great shape, they won the Connacht Final last year and nearly went all the way and I’m sure James Horan is preparing them for an All-Ireland Final this year.
“They’re playing Division One and were Division one finalists against Cork so it will be a way different ball game, we have to up the game massively. We have to bring everything to a new level all over the pitch, our work-rate, our intensity has to be upped to get a victory.”
As for players to watch, Paddy has a simple message for the Leitrim lads – “You have to look out for them all, especially Andy Moran, Conor Mortimer, Alan Freeman, the O’Sheas, they’ve a great selection of players.
“But I think it comes down to us believing we can do it and we won’t fear Mayo on the day, we won’t fear them at all.”