Home advantage proved little advantage last Saturday in Pairc Sheain Ui Eslin, Ballinamore when Tyrone ran riot after an incredibly wasteful first half to put a major dent in any hopes Leitrim had of impressing in the Lory Meagher Cup.
Leitrim 1-6 Tyrone 4-22
With Tyrone showing little mercy in the closing stages, needlessly driving home a couple of late goals when the tie was all but extinguished, Leitrim were outclassed from start to finish, the only mystery being that it took the O’Neill County men so long to put the game beyond reach of Leitrim.
Hitting an incredible ten wides in the opening 15 minutes, including a couple of frees, Tyrone suddenly found themselves level with Leitrim when Clement Cunniffe drove home a goal 22 minutes into the game.
Suddenly, Leitrim were level and in with a chance but instead, the goal galvanized Tyrone and instead of shooting some pretty awful wides, they found their feet and whipped over six unanswered points before the halftime break.
And to make sure they wouldn’t be caught again, the Ulster men struck 1-3 in the first six minutes of the second half and the game was as good as over as Leitrim were completely outclassed in most sectors of the field.
Kevin McGrath battled manfully, carrying the fight to Tyrone but it was a solo resistance while Clement Cunniffe gave the Tyrone defence some moments of worry but had no support to speak of, the St. Mary’s man needing to come out the field to gain possession at all.
Vinny McDermott fought hard and Michael Poinard seemed wasted at corner-back but in too many positions around the field, Tyrone just had too much skill and superior stick-work for Leitrim to cope with.
It is a long fall from the highs of two years ago when Leitrim performed well in the Rackard Cup, reaching a semi-final against Longford but that came with a Leitrim team boosting five or six Dublin born players, their absence sorely felt over the last two years as Leitrim have suffered a series of heavy defeats.
Whatever the motivation of no longer calling up the Dublin based players, and there is something to be said for trying to develop home based players, the fact remains that without them, Leitrim are just not competitive in the lowest grade of hurling.
Michael Dolan’s well taken point on three minutes gave Leitrim an early lead as Tyrone virtually camped in the Leitrim half but hit some awful wides. Aidan Kelly & Conor Grogan had points while Sean Og Grogan blasted a great goal chance wide.
A goal did arrive in unlucky circumstances for Leitrim – keeper Alan Duffy was injured just a few minutes earlier and was caught out when Damien Casey’s long range shot eluded his grasp and ended up in the net, Duffy immediately being replaced by Paul McKiernan.
But Leitrim roared back with a Cunniffe free before Morgan Quinn’s long delivery was brilliantly caught by Cunniffe, his shot under pressure creeping into the net off the far post on 22 minutes.
However, it was Tyrone who kicked on after the goal and three Casey points, two for Justy Kelly and one from Gerard Gilmore left Tyrone 1-8 to 1-2 ahead at the break, a lead quickly and ruthlessly doubled in the first six minutes of the second half with three points and a brilliant Conor Grogan goal.
Tyrone would go on to add four more points before Cunniffe converted a free, Leitrim’s first score in 30 minutes, 18 minutes into the second half.
Tyrone kept sweeping over points and despite a free from Cunniffe with ten minutes to go, the Ulster men added six more points before they added salt into the Leitrim wounds with Seamus Hagan and Shea McKiver grabbing late goals to complete the rout.
Cunniffe would add two more points for the home side but it was Tyrone’s day all over and Leitrim must now pick themselves up for their second round game.