Leitrim keeper Brendan Flynn tips a Roscommon penalty over the crossbar in Hyde Park last June. Photo by Willie Donnellan
With a new manager and a new look young team trying to find their feet in the tough world of inter-county football, the highs were high and the lows very low but for Leitrim football, 2017 was a year of lessons.
A year that saw Leitrim claim the Connacht Junior Football Championship title by beating Galway and Mayo and achieve aim one of defeating London in the Provincial championship were offset by heavy defeats at the hands of Roscommon and Carlow.
It leaves the county’s fans in a somewhat confusing position of knowing that there is young talent coming through but the scale of the defeats suffered in Hyde Park and Netwatch Cullen Park drained the confidence of even those most optimistic Green & Gold fanatics.
The Leitrim Observer looked at the situation after the heavy and demoralising 2-23 to 1-9 loss in Hyde Park, asking where to now for the Green & Gold after the record breaking defeat at the hands of the Rossies.
In fairness, Leitrim walked into something of a hurricane in Hyde Park - Roscommon had the championship in their sights after a demoralising League and Leitrim suffered as Kevin McStay’s team were determined to send out a message to say the least.
That Roscommon would go on to lift the Connacht title and almost knock Mayo out of the championship in the quarter-finals may lift some of the gloom but the sight of Leitrim players being bullied in every sector was a sight that shocked Leitrim fans to the core.
The defeat against Carlow came with different feelings - a fantastic first half display that knocked the home team back and suggested that lessons had been learned as Ryan O’Rourke led a superb Green & Gold.
Two second half goals from Carlow saw them romp away to a convincing seven point victory and another round of soul-searching for Leitrim, the second half collapse as mystifying as the first half had been heartwarming.
An influx of new young players into the squad ensured a surge in optimism around the county set-up and an impressive win over Wicklow in Aughrim at the start of the Allianz League seemed to suggest that maybe the long sought after promotion could be achieved.
Unfortunately, the loss to Wexford summed up Leitrim’s performances as they produced a fantastic display in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada but couldn’t finish off a team that lost a player to a red card in the first half.
A 12 point defeat against an impressive Westmeath followed but hope flowered again when Carlow were dispatched in Carrick.
But an unlucky 2-11 to 0-15 defeat in Newcastlewest officially ended Leitrim’s hopes of promotion and although the Green & Gold finished with an important morale boosting win over London and a hard fought win over Waterford, focus had already turned to the championship.
2018 offers very different and testing challenges - a much more condensed season means the Division 4 campaign may have to take a back seat to emerging from New York with a win. But optimism always flowers at this time of the year and if the lessons can be learned from this year, then it should be a much better 2018.