In his first year as Leitrim joint manager George Dugdale has shown himself to be methodical in his preparations and always honest in his assessment of his sides performances. After the crushing defeat in Castlebar, George accepted there was a significant gulf between the teams but on Saturday evening last, the Mohill man spoke with real pride in tribute of the players who led Leitrim to their first ever qualifier victory.
However, George pointed out that correcting Leitrim’s dismal record in the qualifiers wasn’t the immediate pointing out that restoring pride was of much greater significance.
“I’m absolutely delighted, after the devastation of the Mayo result I suppose it was important that we regrouped and got a win here. The win and restoring pride was more important than any statistics about All-Ireland qualifiers because this is a new team and new management. It was important that this group of guys got that result, worked out it out themselves and showed what ability they have got.”
Meeting Wicklow in Pairc Sean had been viewed as the best available draw for Leitrim but George knew better than most just what challenge would be presented by the Division 4 champions and knew just what it would take in terms of effort to ensure Leitrim emerged victorious.
“We talked about Wicklow, they are Division 4 champions, they won it in the end comprehensively beating Fermanagh and they have had some decent runs in the qualifiers. We knew we would have to give a huge 70 minutes of relentless effort, work rate and score taking. All the things you have to do well if you want to win and we did that for the full 70.
“As we were talking about we don’t want to concede goals and we didn’t concede any today. Cathal pulled off a great save and there was some fantastic closing down to pressurise them into mistakes. We got the rub of the green and got over the line and it’s all down to the players.”
Injuries to the likes of Wayne McKeon and Daniel Lowe and then Darren Sweeney during the game made matters more difficult for Leitrim but George was certainly not looking for sympathy in that regard and in fact felt the injuries suffered throughout the year may in a bizarre way have actually helped Leitrim!
“In hindsight, maybe the injuries we had in the National League were a blessing in disguise because more players got game time and we got a better look at the squad overall and as we keep saying, this is a squad effort. Alan Wynne who didn’t make the squad for the London game came out today and played a starring role and that’s just one example. The guys deserve all the credit they get here, it’s all about them.”
The performances of James Glancy and Emlyn Mulligan were key to Leitrim’s success but George was quick to stress that it was a team effort that ensured victory for his side. “Up front we caused them trouble, when we got inside them James and Emlyn punished them but Ray and all the other boys worked hard around them and created the opportunities for them. It was a whole team effort, with everybody working really hard.”
George also had words of praise for the Leitrim supporters who made themselves heard in the closing stages when Wicklow were applying plenty of pressure. “It’s great for the supporters who turned out in decent numbers and in the last 10 minutes they were nearly an extra man, the way they supported their team and the boys responded and I’m delighted for everyone involved.”
Looking ahead to round three of the qualifiers George was frank in his assessment saying, “A home draw would be very important but after that you take what comes and you prepare for that. We’ve got a week to prepare but look, to have another week of championship football in Leitrim is great.”