Leitrim need 15 leaders

He may be just 23 years old and in only his second year as a regular on the senior county team but Paddy Maguire already seems to have been playing at the highest level for a much longer period of time.

He may be just 23 years old and in only his second year as a regular on the senior county team but Paddy Maguire already seems to have been playing at the highest level for a much longer period of time.

Not only has he been a key part of Glencar/Manorhamilton’s recent success, Paddy has proved that he is a man for the big occasion as he was named man of the match in the 2009 and 2010 county finals.

Those displays helped him make the step up to county level and it is fair to say that Paddy has never looked out of his depth and the management team of George Dugdale and Barney Breen have entrusted Paddy with the captaincy for this year but he insists for Leitrim to be successful, the team will need leaders all over the pitch.

Talking about his role as captain Paddy stated “I just try to motivate the players, try to get them all focused but at the end of the day I have to play my own game and we’re looking for leaders all over the pitch so you can’t just rely on one man to do the job.”

The National League campaign may have ended with something of a whimper as Leitrim were well beaten by Fermanagh but Paddy insists that from that defeat Leitrim have responded in the best manner possible.

“I think that was a learning curve for us, getting beaten so heavily in Brewster Park. We just had to get together as a team and sort out what was going wrong and in fairness to the management and players the training and intensity, you couldn’t ask for much more. I’ve been injured myself and I was there watching the lads and it’s been a great effort.

“If we bring that intensity to the pitch and that work rate that we’re always looking for, there’ll be nothing in it. Training the last three or four weeks has been good, lads have been putting in 100% effort. I can’t complain, they’re a great bunch of lads.”

The injury Paddy referred to was a small cartilage tear but speaking the night of the open night in Pairc Sean on May 11 Paddy said, “I went training last night, I didn’t take part in it all but hopefully next week I’ll be back to full fitness and training.”

Since then attention has turned to the trip to Ruislip and Paddy believes Leitrim will need to be at their best to return home with a victory - “It’s a huge task for us, we know what’s ahead of us, going over to London we’ll have to put in a huge performance to beat them.”

When asked how the Leitrim players feel about the prospect of a trip to London, Paddy said simply, “It’s a place we want to get of with a win, we’re probably going in to unknown territory. In the last few years no team has come out of Ruislip easily.

Giving his verdict on the London side, who he saw at close quarters when the sides met in the National League, Paddy was full of praise for the exiles.

“They’ve improved over the last few years, they have some excellent players and you have to be on your guard all the time and they’re going to be boosted in confidence from beating Fermanagh in the qualifier last year and running Mayo to extra-time. They were going well in the league, they beat Waterford and we only led by two points at half-time and we only escaped out the door here in Pairc Sean.”

Reflecting on that game Paddy recalled “I was impressed with them, they were very strong up the middle, from full back up to full-forward. They’re a fast running team and its up to us to stop them. I was marking some of their corner forwards and they were fierce nippy and they have a strong midfield. It’s going to be a huge battle to beat them.

“ It’s up to us to focus, we have to go over fully aware that we’re in for a huge game and the way we beat them is how well training has been going. Once we go over there we’ll be fully focused on getting the job done.”

If the Leitrim players are looking for inspiration ahead of Sunday’s game they could do worse than look back on last year’s win over Sligo with Paddy agreeing, “It was a great feeling, that winning feeling is what we’re always looking for and looking back on that video, hopefully that will motivate the lads before the game.”