The glow of a successful trip to New York had barely subsided and joint manager George Dugdale was already warning Leitrim’s players to turn their attentions to a Connacht Championship Semi-Final meeting with either Sligo or London, stressing that Leitrim still have a lot of work to do.
Speaking at the Leitrim GAA Open Press Night last Friday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada, Leitrim’s joint manager said “It is water under the bridge now, we have got to improve big time, what we did in New York is irrelevant now, you are only as good as your last game.
“So for the next six weeks, we are going to be upping the pace big time in everything we do on and off the field if we want to have a chance of getting a result in the semi-final, whether it is Sligo or London.”
George’s determination to move on seems as much a message to the players as well as the supporters – “All hands on deck and everyone battling for their place, the slate is clean again now, there are 15 places up for grabs again, there is a lot of competition, there were a lot of fellows disappointed they missed the starting 15. We have five guys who didn’t even make the 26 last Sunday through injury, they’re coming back so it is a fantastic position to be in.
“Any man not giving the right commitment will suffer the consequences. Leitrim have been in this position before, we got a championship win, we sat back on our laurels but we won’t be doing that. We’ve got to do things that we never done before on and off the field to get over Sligo.
“What we’ve done before down the years isn’t good enough, we’re going to have to get another dimension on and off the field to get where we want to go, to beat whoever is in the semi-final and that is what we’re going to be working on for the next six weeks.”
The joint manager paid tribute to the players for the professionalism they showed in the Big Apple – “It was a case of going there, getting the result, being decisive about it. I was worried that sometimes weaker teams can drag us down and we may not raise our game but we were clinical and decisive. We knew that going there that it was a no-win situation, if you beat them decisively, they’re no good and if you struggle to beat them, you’re no good.
“We’re not worried about either of those scenarios, all we were concerned about was going, winning the game and winning it decisively. We’ve done that, its history now. I have to say every member of that panel acquitted themselves so professionally on and off the field. It was remarked upon by the Irish in New York, on the field, off the field, at the functions, the boys were a credit to their county, a credit to themselves, a credit to their families.
“That is the professionalism we are trying to bring to this team and full credit to the boys, they did everything asked of them and we’re proud of them but we have to move on and be even more professional is everything we do if we are to have a chance of winning in the semi-final.”
The Club Championship makes an earlier than normal appearance but George doesn’t see it as a hindrance, instead pointing to possible benefits for the team – “The Club Championship is not a distraction, we sat down with the County Board in January and worked out our plan for the next six or seven months.
“It was all part of the plan, we wanted the championship that weekend so then after that, we have them for four solid weeks. This is all part of an overall plan, we’re working with the County Board, everyone working together with the best interests at heart and we’ve no problem with the boys going off and playing club football.
“Some of them mightn’t be getting as much game time on the county scene, that is all part of the plan that they be released to their clubs on the Thursday before the championship.”
As for Leitrim’s Semi-Final opponents, George reveals that Brian Breen will be heading over to Ruislip to watch London and Sligo – “We’re training that day but Barney is heading over that day to have a look at London and Sligo, he is heading over to look at who we will be playing.”