Leitrim will be hoping to reach their first Connacht U-21 final since 1998 when they face Sligo this weekend in what promises to be a keenly contested encounter. Although Leitrim will have to cope with loss of Conor Beirne but manager Benny Guckian was in upbeat mood when speaking to the Observer ahead of the game.
By David Goulden
Beirne, who scored against Sligo in last year’s Senior Championship, recently underwent knee surgery is Leitrim’s only absentee. Manager Benny Guckian says that although Beirne’s loss is a blow to his side, there are still players on the panel more than capable of causing the Yeatsmen a few problems. “Conor is progressing nicely as he recovers and although we will miss his presence, we have players there who are more than able to get a result on Saturday”, he said.
Leitrim will still have the ghost of January’s defeat to Roscommon in the Hastings Cup Shield Final to Roscommon fresh in the mind, but Benny was quick to point out that thoughts in the camp are firmly set to this weekend and not past games. “These guys have been together since under-age level and are a tight bunch. What’s done is done and we are only looking ahead.”
Sligo recently drew with current All-Ireland U21 Champions Cavan, a feat that has not gone un-noticed within the province and Guckian knows the challenge ahead for his team. “I saw Sligo two weeks ago and they’re a highly impressive side, that result against Cavan was massive for them and we know exactly what we are up against.”
Despite the absence of Beirne, Leitrim still have plenty of talented players within their ranks and will look to players such as the influential Ballinamore forward, Shane Moran as well as Dromahair goalkeeper Killian Torsney, Glencar/Manorhamilton full back James O’Brien and wing backs Thomas Cornyn and Mark McGourty to bring their form in recent games into the tie. “We have a real workman-like team here and the atmosphere within the camp the last few weeks has been very positive. We have some very talented players and they’ve been great in training recently.” Guckian concluded.
Throw-in in at Markievicz Park on Saturday is 2.30pm.