A fantastic late rally that yielded 2-4 in the last 11 minutes was still not enough for the County U-16 side to record victory over a strong Roscommon in last Wednesday’s Fr Manning Cup clash in Strokestown.
Roscommon dominated much of this contest in Strokestown’s splendid new grounds at their ease and led by ten points with nine minutes of normal time left before Leitrim unleashed a late, late rally with two goals in the space of less than two minutes as the game entered injury time.
Up until those goals, Roscommon were never seriously threatened and despite a few flashes of excellent in the first half, the Green & Gold found themselves playing second fiddle to a team making their bow in the contest.
Those arriving late at the venue, the game was moved at very short notice to Strokestown from Elphin, would have missed an evenly balanced opening quarter but once a rusty Roscommon found their rhythm, Leitrim had no answer to their slicker handling and incisive play in attack.
Positives were hard to find for a lot of this game but the performances of Melvin Gaels Liam Ryan and Mohill’s Shane McGowan are something to build upon, both of them showing real promise in the half-back line even if their distribution left something to be desired at times.
Conor Gaffney too demonstrated lots of promise but was often left isolated, something that affected the dangerous Gary Fowley as well and while Leitrim deserve a lot of praise for keeping going, too often, Leitrim’s attackers were left isolated and Roscommon’s superior team-work and work-rate around the field carried them to victory.
Roscommon started off well with only a Tom Butler point to show for a lot of early dominance but points from Conor Gaffney and Evan Ward before Enda Moreton got the last vital touch to a long ball to finish well to the net on 11 minutes.
Less than a minute later, Roscommon hit back with a goal while Kevin Smyth’s shot came off the crossbar and Noel Gately was left unmarked to goal. The impressive John Gannon (2), Aidan Brogan, Smyth and James McDonald all added points, McDonald seeing his shot tipped over by keeper Michael Gallagher.
Two Gaffney frees kept Leitrim in touch at halftime, 1-6 to 1-4, but despite a point from Luke Murphy seven minutes into the second half, Roscommon started to pull well clear with a series of points from Brogan, Gately, Gannon (4) and Smyth.
Francis McNabola stopped the rot with a fine point on 18 minutes but a Butler goal and another Gannon point left Roscommon ten clear with less than nine minutes to go. With Roscommon seemingly content to cruise, Leitrim found a bit more space and time in the closing minutes.
Points from Fowley, Mark Plunkett and Dean McGovern were followed by a Fowley goal after a defender lost a kickout in the last minute. Fowley added a free before a Murphy goal, deflecting in off a defender, suddenly left two between the teams with less than a minute to go.
But as they had all game, Roscommon responded with John Gannon firing over after a great run by Boyle’s Evan McGrath to seal the win.
Michael Gallagher, Francis McNabola (0-1), David Mulvey, Oisin Madden, Gerard McDermott, Liam Ryan, Shane McGowan, Mark Plunkett (0-1), Dean McGovern (0-1), Keith Keegan, Conor Gaffney (0-3), Luke Murphy (1-1), Enda Moreton (1-0), Evan Ward (0-1), Gary Fowley (1-2). Subs: Philip Dolan for Keegan (23 mins), Micheal Bohan for Moreton (43 mins), James Mitchell for Madden (45 mins),
Gary Mannion, Ryan Horan, Martin Flannery, Thomas Greene, Jack Connaughton, Evan McGrath, Gerard Connaughton, Tom Butler (1-1), Ronan Rafferty, James McDonald (0-1), Aidan Brogan (0-2), Eoin Fallon, Noel Gately (1-2), John Gannon (0-8), Kevin Smyth (0-2). Subs: Daniel Malone for McDonald (HT).
Referee: Tony Gaffney (Longford).