After learning the lessons of history just over two weeks ago in Markievicz Park, Leitrim footballers now look to make their own history and break an unwanted distinction when they take on fierce rivals Roscommon in next Sunday’s Connacht Senior Championship Semi-Final in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada (2.00 throw-in).
By John Connolly
The inspiration of past victories over Sligo, particularly six years ago in the championship, drove Mickey Moran’s side to a well deserved win over the heavily favoured Yeats-men in the first round clash in Markievicz Park but now they seek to end a miserable streak against Roscommon in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
Believe it or not, Leitrim have never recorded a victory over their fiercest rivals in the famed Carrick-on-Shannon venue and despite all the talk of “Fortress Carrick”, Roscommon have a wonderful record in Pairc Sean.
Add to the fact that Fergal O’Donnell’s side are also seeking their third victory on the trot after meetings in the last two years and it would seem the perfect time for Leitrim to make their own history next Sunday.
The surge of optimism among Leitrim fans since the victory over Sligo is remarkable, all the more so since it was only the die-hard fans present in Markievicz, and Leitrim go into the semi-final on the crest of a wave.
Yet nobody closely involved with the Leitrim camp is losing the run of themselves with wild predictions ahead of next Sunday’s encounter and the fact that Leitrim are hoping to make it third time lucky only serves to illustrate the size of the task ahead of Mickey Moran’s side.
As strange as it sounds, it is easy to forget that Roscommon are the current Connacht Champions, particularly with the widespread belief that Sligo had left the Nestor Cup behind them last year in McHale Park.
The fact that the Rossies may not have garnered the same plaudits that might have gone Sligo’s way last year, or indeed to Mayo or Galway, is surprising as many in the know have been predicting the rise of this Roscommon team ever since they won the All-Ireland Minor title in 2006.
That the victory may have come a year or two ahead of schedule only serves to illustrate just how good this Roscommon team truly can be as they are still a very young side, probably younger than what is widely believed to a young Leitrim team.
Roscommon will offer a very different threat to this Leitrim team – taller and more direct, they will be in stark contrast to a Sligo side seemingly made for Leitrim.
Sligo’s preference for running the ball and carrying into contact and for slower, more deliberate build-up play was almost made to order for this current Leitrim team, a fantastically disciplined unit who work ferociously hard and like to get back in numbers to cut out the opposition attack. Roscommon are equally disciplined and like most inter-county teams, they like to play the ball out of their own defence with short passes.
But there the paths diverge as Roscommon like to deliver the ball long to a potent full-forward line of Donal Shine, Cathal Cregg and Senan Kilbride, a line that has the potential to match any in the country if they get the supply in.
Stopping that line and you almost certainly stop Roscommon but again, saying that is fairly easy, doing it is quite another thing!
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.