Inspired by man of the match Eunan Treacy, Leitrim Gaels finally claimed the Glenfarne Wood Products Junior Championship title last Sunday in a sodden St. Mary’s Park, Cloone as they held off a determined Gortletteragh challenge.
Ever since their ascent to the Junior A competition, Leitrim Gaels have always been counted among the favourites for the title – their status as one of the few first string teams to ply their trade and a burgeoning underage set-up means the Gaels have been tilting for the Junior A title for some time.
But heart-break has been their lot until last Sunday when the combination of their older players and new emerging youngsters propelled them to a deserved triumph, despite an occasional scare from a dogged if restric ted Gortletteragh.
The Gortletteragh men came into the Final on the back of their Intermediate Final victory and their Minor team reaching the County Final but they were never able to match the overall strength in depth and organisation of the Gaels who always seemed to have something more in reserve.
With Cloone hosting two games prior to Sunday’s Final and four more during the week, the pitch didn’t allow for free-flowing football and the heavy pitch negated the efforts of the likes of Ricky Wynne, Padraig Gallagher and even man of the match Eunan Treacy.
But any flowing football that did come was produced by Leitrim Gaels and invariably the elegant Treacy was at the heart of it, producing some wonderful scores from play and placed balls despite the difficult conditions.
In defence, the Gaels never let the dangerous Padraig Gallagher get the sort of free rein he enjoyed in the semi-final against Allen Gaels with the covering of Andy Guckian particularly impressive and solid performances from James Keane, Paul Guckian and Aaron McLoughlin who stuck to his task well in marking Gallagher.
Conor Guckian, Luke Donnellan, John Casey and Ricky Wynne all worked extremely hard but a tendency to commit fouls in the second half almost cost the Gaels as the accurate young Gallagher swept over three frees in a row to narrow a seven point gap back to four.
Gortletteragh never displayed the verve and determination they showed in the semi-final but that may have been down to the work-rate and endeavour of Leitrim Gaels who ensured that they couldn’t build a platform in the middle of the field where Cathal Quinn and Padraig McGarry were expected to have an edge in the game.
Leitrim Gaels now face into a Connacht Club first round clash against Galway’s Ballinasloe next Sunday, a difficult task but one they will face with a great deal of confidence after their victory last Sunday if they manage to recover from the celebrations in time!
Both sides opened nervously, missing chances before John Casey’s perceptive cross-field pass on eight minutes was passed on by John Farrell to Eunan Treacy who stroked over a lovely point. Gavin Mitchell replied instantly with a Gortletteragh free but two Treacy points, one from a free and the second a massive 50 yard effort, gave the Gaels a deserved lead.
John Casey blasted over when Aidan Flynn’s high ball found him but a fine point from Padraig McGarry, hooked over, narrowed the gap. Leitrim Gaels opened up a three point gap after Conor Guckian curled a lovely effort from the right wing over the bar on 18 minutes.
But Gortletteragh started to fight back and a Mitchell free and a well taken Gallagher point narrowed the gap to a point before Leitrim Gaels struck for a goal. Michael McManus’ long ball flew low and with the defence hesitant, the ball fell in front of goal and Luke Donnellan forced it home from close range.
With the goal came increased confidence for the Gaels and before the break, they added points from Michael McManus, a great free from the wing, Aidan Flynn and Treacy all added points before Padraig Gallagher replied with a point.
That left Leitrim Gaels with a 1-8 to 0-5 halftime lead, a lead quickly extended with fine points from John Casey and a Treacy fifty, Gallagher converting a free in reply in the first five minutes of the second half.
With the game entering a lull, Padraig Gallagher swapped two points with Ricky Wynne and Eunan Treacy but a determined Gortletteragh started to make a drive and three unanswered Gallagher free between the 22nd and 27th minutes suddenly reduced the lead to three points.
However, the Gaels were able to respond and Treacy set up Com Moreton for a fine point before Treacy capped off a great display with an excellent free to leave six between the teams as a scrap broke out with a couple of players from both teams lucky to avoid red cards.
There was still time for drama when Gortletteragh sub Darren Clarke blasted home from close range after Cathal Quinn fielded a late free, leaving Leitrim Gaels nerves jangling albeit for only a matter of minutes and when the final whistle did sound, it prompted wild celebrations.
Mark Chandler, Aaron McLoughlin, James Keane, Paul Guckian, John Farrell, Andrew Guckian, Colm Moreton (0-1), Liam Moreton, Conor Guckian (0-1), Michael McManus (0-1), Aidan Flynn (0-1), Eunan Treacy (0-7), Luke Donnellan (1-0), John Casey (0-2), Ricky Wynne (0-1). Subs: Mick McWeeney for McManus (36 mins), Brian Wynne & Brian Gilroy for Casey & Donnellan (58 mins).
Niall Tiernan, Gerard Griffin, Sean Costello, Alan McGarry, Dermot Kennedy, Terry Kelleher, Barry Tiernan, Cathal Quinn, Padraig McGarry, John Reynolds, Peadar Cassells, Padraig Gallagher (0-9), Gavin Mitchell (0-2), Derek Kelleher, Alan McCann. Subs: Neil Quinn for McCann (HT), Nigel Keighran for Reynolds (46 mins), Darren Clarke (1-0) for Tiernan (61 mins).
Referee: Ray McBrien.