After one year as Leitrim kingpins, Gortletteragh surprisingly surrendered their county hurling title to a bang on form Carrick in Saturday’s low scoring first Leitrim semi-final that was played in ideal weather conditions in St. Mary’s Grounds, Carrick-on-Shannon.
Last year Gortletteragh succeeded Carrick as Leitrim title holders when they overcame Manorhamilton in the final after a replay but last Saturday, Carrick, who previously had 12 wins in a row, hit back with a bang.
As well as with a greater intensity and overall quality play, to certainly somewhat surprise Gortletteragh on the occasion. Carrick were effective in every area of the field with the result that Gortletteragh was unable to match them in the crucial battles when the chips were down.
This became more evident as the showdown headed towards its second half climax and the Gortletteragh men couldn’t engineer a fight back to wrestle control of the contest from Carrick’s grasp and on which their grip was tightening ever more as the clock ran down.
Carrick, who were also slightly sharper from the outset, held a slight advantage in the first half but then took control and outplayed Gortletteragh for almost the second 35 minutes with Gortletteragh living largely off scraps at this stage,.
Prior to that the early exchanges were evenly matched and in the opening six minutes in particular, with Clement Cunniffe and Tomas Beirne swapping a Carrick and Gortletteragh point at opposite ends.
It was then evident after Carrick increased their lead to three points by the 15th minute with scores from Vinny McDermott, Alan Doherty and Clement Cunniffe (‘65’) that the county town side was on a mission in this game.
But once again over the next five minutes Gortletteragh regrouped and made it level pegging following a surge with Mark O’Donoghue scoring from a free and play while Kieran Egan also pointed in between O’Donoghue’s two strikes.
The Carrick men edged into a 0-6 to 0-5 interval lead after Cunniffe pointed another ‘65’ and from play while O’Donoghue replied with a Gortletteragh free conversion.
The opening action of the second half saw Cunniffe (after Bernard Murray was fouled) and O’Donoghue again trade points from frees for their sides.
Following that Gortletteragh fullback Conor Beirne made an almost goal line stop that denied a goal bound effort from Bernard Murray in a period that the Gortletteragh defence came under sustained pressure.
Carrick took a solid grip on the game as Cunniffe, who was in rampant form hit three unanswered points (two frees) by the 46th minute. Gortletteragh, who hadn’t scored for 14 minutes, replied with their last point in the game when Cathal McCrann put over a free some six minutes later.
Carrick kept up the drive for victory right to the end with James Glancy putting over a well-hit 75metre free that at that stage also shut the door out further on a possible Gortletteragh come back.
But to their credit Gortletteragh never gave up trying to the end and a late Tomas Beirne goal bound shot required an alert response from Carrick ‘keeper Gary Coone to keep his side’s four point margin intact at that stage.
With their smashing performance when defeating Gortletteragh on Saturday, Carrick made it crystal clear to whoever emerges as victors in the Ballinamore or Manorhamilton semi-final that the county town’s new revitalised side is on a red alert for them.
Gary Coone; Thomas Glancy, Brian Keane, Donal Butler; Dáithi Hughes, James Glancy (0-1), Danny Byrne; Gary McGovern, Vinny McDermott (0-1); Clement Cunniffe (0-8), Declan Deegan, Liam Greene, Alan Doherty (0-1); Bernard Murray, Paul McKiernan. Subs: Breian Carroll for Murray (56 mins); Conal Maguire for Butler (59 mins), Sean Beirne for Deegan (65 mins).
Tommy McLoughlin; Sean Costello, Conor Beirne, Donal Kennedy; Brendan Duignan, Seamus Mallon, Michael McGuinness; Kevin McGrath, Cathal McCrann (0-1); Dermot Kennedy, Kieran Egan (0-1), John McGuinness; Mark O’Donoghue (0-4), Niall Beirne, Thomas Beirne (0-1). Subs: Cathal Keegan & Donal Flynn for Dermot Kennedy & N. Beirne (36 mins); Kennedy for J. McGuinness (57 mins); Shane Sorohan for O’Donoghue (58 mins).
Referee: James Clarke (Cavan).