Tough times ahead as Ballyhaunis trip signals start of 2012 campaign

Minus their manager and several key players from last year’s Championship side, Leitrim Senior footballers start 2012 under something of a cloud next Sunday when they make the journey to Ballyhaunis (2.00 throw-in) to take on Mayo in the opening round of the 2012 FBD Insurance League.

Minus their manager and several key players from last year’s Championship side, Leitrim Senior footballers start 2012 under something of a cloud next Sunday when they make the journey to Ballyhaunis (2.00 throw-in) to take on Mayo in the opening round of the 2012 FBD Insurance League.

BY John Connolly

The return to Inter-county action is always eagerly awaited for GAA fans the length and breath of the country but with the emigration of players like Ronan Gallagher, Annaduff’s Dermot Reynolds, Shane Foley and plenty of speculation about the future of several more players, it is easy to assume that an air of gloom will surround the County side as they take on the reigning Provincial champions in Ballyhaunis.

With club teams all around the county reporting player losses due to emigration in the face of the country’s economic woes, the County team faces its toughest start to a year in many a year with the natural optimism of supporters a good deal more subdued as 2012 rolls around.

The loss of Mickey Moran as manager is as big a blow to the County team as losing any one of the many players who are no longer lining out in the Green & Gold - the achievement last year in producing a side that lost four of the six starting forwards from the previous year and was still in contention for promotion in the League and defeated Sligo in Markievicz Park ranks as one of the best in the last 20 years.

Moran’s ability, proven time and again over the last three years, to improve the skills and performances of players was never more evident than last year, a feature that will definitely be missed this year with another influx of new players into the County set-up to counter the loss of the likes of Declan Maxwell, Colin Regan, David O’Connor, Enda Lyons, Noel Gill, the injured Ray Mulvey, Declan Gilhooley, Michael Foley and so many more.

Ironically, the debilitating loss of quality players will ease the pressure on the new management team of Brian Breen and George Dugdale and they certainly won’t be judged on next Sunday’s trip to Ballyhaunis or indeed the entire FBD League, essentially a pre-season training programme, and probably not even on the Allianz League campaign.

To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.