Every Tuesday, we will take a quick look back at some of the talking points from the weekend’s action in the Fox’s Monumentals Championship.
Simply click on our photo gallery, the images from last weekend's matches from our photographer Willie Donnellan, to follow our review of the weekend's action or read below.
And look to www.leitrimobserver.ie on Monday evenings for our talking points from the Connacht Gold Senior Championship while on Wednesday, check out our previews for round two of the club championships.
CONOR BEIRNE STILL THE MOST INTRIGUING FIGURE IN LEITRIM GAA
He may be far from peak condition but Eslin’s Conor Beirne remains Leitrim’s most tantalising figure. Another barnstorming display against Aughnasheelin, a team with genuine hopes of Intermediate glory this year, saw him score two goals and set up one more.
But it wasn’t just his goals - it was the sense of excitement and wonder among fans any time the ball was sent arching into the sky against him. Conor knew what was coming, Aughnasheelin knew what was coming, the fans knew what was coming and even the Press box knew what was coming but stopping it was a completely different matter.
But what stands out when looking at Conor and the amazing fielding of his brother Tomas for Eslin is the sense of loss. Just imagine what a pair of fully fit and fully committed Beirne brothers could do for the Green & Gold - the ultimate ‘what if’ for Leitrim football.
RACE FOR THE TITLE WIDE OPEN
Try picking out a favourite for this year’s Intermediate Championship and then look at the results from last weekend. Fenagh appear to have step up with their demolition of Drumkeerin but the north Leitrim men had two men sent off and St. Caillin’s tagged on 2-4 in the closing stages, virtually their entire winning margin - so what do you make of that?
Aughnasheelin had to work hard to overcome a Conor Beirne inspired Eslin, Kiltubrid had the expected demolition of a struggling Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher when Leitrim Gaels hit the last ten points of the game to see off Mohill’s second string, winning the game by those ten points.
There is a lot of football to be played yet before we can say anything definite but the lack of an out-and-out favourite for the title this year in the style of Ballinamore, Melvin Gaels and Gortletteragh means that this could be the most exciting and most open Championship in years.
YOUNG GUNS MAKING A GREATER IMPACT
Perhaps the lower standard makes it easier but what is noticeable from the first round was the impact made by young players in the first round of the Intermediate championship. An injured Conor Cullen was sprung from the bench to steer Aughnasheelin home against Eslin while Ryan O’Rourke scored 1-6 for St. Caillin’s against Drumkeerin.
Fintan Fitzpatrick was another to catch the eye for Aughnasheelin while Stephen McLoughlin landed four points for Kiltubrid and Gerard Percival was impressive for Carrigallen until injury forced his early withdrawal from the game against Cloone.
There is no doubt that the standard is lower at Intermediate level, noticeably so, but maybe it is a perfect proving ground for young talent and the likes of Fenagh are introducing quite a lot of young players to their ranks this year and the years to come. It certainly did Melvin Gaels and Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s no harm over the last two campaigns.
NEW BOY MAKES CLOONE A CONTENDER
With much talk about clubs losing players in recent times, the performance of a new addition to the Intermediate Championship was a breath of fresh air. The first half hat-trick scored by Cloone's new man Darren Carberry was as clinical as anything on display over the weekend. With a scoring, focal point to their attack, Cloone now look a renewed threat and it seems to have breathed new life into the performances of the likes of Mark Creegan, Gavin Reynolds and Damian O'Donnell. Kiltubrid are up next for Cloone and if they can pick up another win and generate some momentum it will be interesting to see just how far they can progress in the Championship.
GAP GROWING BETWEEN INTERMEDIATE AND SENIOR
Over the last few years, Leitrim’s Intermediate Champions could quite justifiably claim that they could cut it at Senior level and with good reason - Melvin Gaels, Gortletteragh, Aughawillan and Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s have all shown that they could compete with the Senior grade’s best.
Not so this year - the evidence of the first round of games would suggest that the gap between the Intermediate and Senior has widened significantly as there were noticeable differences in the pace of games, fitness levels and execution of the game’s skills.
Perhaps that’s the way it is meant to be but with a lot of hammerings at Senior level over the first weekend, it will lend support to the calls for a radical revamp of the adult competition structures for next year.