Leitrim minors began their Connacht Minor League campaign on Friday night last in Kiltubrid and after a dramatic finale it was the home supporters who went home with a smile on their faces as Mark Plunkett’s excellent injury time 45 secured a share of the spoils against Sligo.
For much of the game it was difficult to envisage anything other than a Sligo win but to their credit Leitrim were much improved after the break and got stronger as the game progressed.
Trailing by two points as the game entered the second minute of injury time it wasn’t looking as though Leitrim would be taking anything from the game but when Luke Murphy scored a fine point, hopes were reignited that Leitrim may yet be able to salvage something from the game.
When Sligo goalkeeper Kevin Kelly took far too long with the resulting kick out and was penalised, the roars from the stand indicated the game was very much alive once more.
In the fourth minute of injury time, Mark Plunkett converted his second 45 of the game to draw the sides level and suddenly Leitrim looked as though they may be on course for what had earlier seemed an unlikely victory.
However, Plunkett’s points proved to be the last action of the game as the full-time whistle sounded moments later. On reflection a draw was probably a fair result and Leitrim would certainly have been the happier at the end of the game.
Sligo were undoubtedly the better team in the first half and deservedly opened the scoring through Kyle Carty in the opening minute. However, two frees from Evan Ward and Luke Murphy gave Leitrim the lead, slightly against he run of play. Sligo continued to bring the game to Leitrim but four successive wides meant they failed to reflect their dominance on the scoreboard.
Approaching the midway point in the half, Sligo drew level when Cathal Henry pointed but Leitrim soon hit back with Plunkett effortlessly converting a 45 to regain the lead before Kenneth Gavigan converted a free ensure there was nothing between the sides once more.
The final stages of the half were dominated by Sligo as they attempted to have their superiority reflected on the scoreboard. With senior county panellist Kevin McDonnell becoming more influential, Sligo finished the half on a high and scored four unanswered points from the boots of McDonnell, Gavigan (free), Peter Murray and Dylan Kilgallon to give the Yeats County a 0-7 to 0-3 lead at the interval.
The Leitrim team began the second half much better than they had played in the opening half, no doubt the words issued to them at half-time were still ringing in their ears.
Points from Plunkett and Cathal McCauley, who both converted frees inside the opening three minutes of the half reduced the deficit. Sligo were still a threat but they were proving to be very wasteful in front of goal.
Sligo’s first score arrived 10 minutes after the restart when full-forward Dylan Kilgallon converted a free. Incredibly that proved to be Sligo’s final score of the game as Leitrim posed much more of a threat in the closing stages.
Kevin McWeeney and Declan Daly came more to the fore in midfield while the tireless work of Bertie Cunningham who seemed to be always available as an outlet was hugely important in terms of getting a foothold in the game.
With a quarter of the game remaining, the decision was taken to deploy corner back Michael Clancy in a more advanced role. Clancy had proved to be real threat when running from defence and within seconds of being moved forward, he struck for Leitrim’s first point from play to leave just two points between the sides.
As the moments ticked by it seemed as though Leitrim’s chances of taking anything from the game were gone but when Luke Murphy struck a fine point in the second minute of injury time hopes were renewed that all was not yet lost.
Sensing an opportunity to waste some time Sligo goalkeeper Kevin Kelly, who was booked as the teams prepared for the start of the second half, delayed his kick-out and having been warned to speed things up he was penalised.
The resulting throw-up saw the ball eventually break to Michael Clancy who flashed a powerful shot across the face of the Sligo goal. A touch from a Leitrim player would have secured victory for Leitrim but it was a Sligo defender who managed to put the ball wide of the goal.
Mark Plunkett took responsibility for the 45 and showing no sign of nerves or the freezing conditions affecting him he slotted the ball between the uprights to earn a share of the spoils.
Darren Kenny, Michael Clancy (0-1), Enda Fowley, Liam Ryan, Shane McGowan, Mark Plunkett (0-3), David Mulvey, Kevin McWeeney, Declan Daly, Evan Ward (0-1), Cathal Keegan, Bertie Cunningham, Michael Lavin, Conor Gaffney, Luke Murphy (0-2). Subs: Cathal McCauley (0-1) for Ward (26 mins), Kelan McHugh for Keegan (45 mins), Aaron McLoughlin for McHugh (51 mins).
Kevin Kelly, Stephen Keenan, Pearse Gorman, Liam Henry, Kyle Carty (0-1), Cathal Henry (0-1), Eoin Kent, Kevin McDonnell (0-1), Kevin Henry, Padraig Mitchell, Peter Murray (0-1), Jamie Gillen, Kenneth Gavigan (0-2), Dylan Kilgallon (0-2), Stephen Kerins. Subs: Joey Farrell for Gavigan, Matthew Cosgrove for Murray, Conor Heraghty for Kent, Ciaran Stenson for Carty.