Conor Gaffney, Micheal McWeeney and Shane Quinn try to stop Antrim's Colum Duffin. Photo by Willie Donnellan
Just two points in arrears at halftime in Corrigan Park, Leitrim were blown away by a clinical Antrim attack in the second half of Sunday's opening round of the Allianz League Division 4.
Hopes were high at halftime that Leitrim could surprise one of the favourites for promotion as they trailed by just two points but the fact that the home team would have the wind in the second half to their advantage meant that Leitrim were always fighting an uphill battle.
However, nobody expected the extent of Antrim's dominance as they outscored Leitrim 0-9 to 0-1 in the second half and although Leitrim can legitimately point to a wonder save from the Antrim keeper that denied Darragh Rooney a flicked goal, the truth was Antrim dominated the second half.
Leitrim started with five players making their League debuts in Mohill’s James Mitchell & Keith Keegan, Leitrim Gaels duo Colm Moreton and Aidan Flynn, Allen Gaels Diarmuid McKiernan, St. Mary’s Nicholas McWeeney and Melvin Gaels Darragh Rooney although Rooney & Keegan both saw championship action last Summer.
They were later joined by Carrigallen's Eoin Ward and Cloone's Darren Carberry who also made their League debuts for Leitrim as substitutes.
Unfortunately for Aidan Flynn, his debut lasted just 11 minutes as he was forced from the game after a clash that saw him sustain a heavy cut below his eye.
Caillin Canning receives treatment on the field in Corrigan Park last Sunday. Photo by Willie Donnellan
It was even worse for his replacement Caillin Canning who saw his involvement end eight minutes later after he sustained a suspected broken collar bone in a heavy but fair collision, the Mohill man having to be taken to hospital after a lengthy delay for treatment on the field.
The two injuries certainly didn't help Leitrim's cause but missed chances proved more costly in the first half as the Green & Gold didn't use the wind advantage to its utmost.
Leitrim got off to a flying start with a wonderful Conor Gaffney score from the right wing after just 27 seconds, a fantastic score but it was Antrim who were setting the pace, missing two chances to one from Shane Quinn before the impressive Paddy McBride played a one-two, running a long way to collect the return, before he ran in to fist the ball over the bar.
Midfielder Sean Burke curled in a shot with the wind to take the lead for Antrim before corner-back Peter Healy showed good finishing instincts with a nice score after a patient Antrim move, although Leitrim's management were incensed that Aidan Flynn sustained a nasty cut in the build up as an Antrim player burst through an attempted tackle.
Leitrim hit back with a Keith Beirne free but McBride responded with a fine point on 23 minutes.
The Green & Gold hit two points in the space of a minute, the first from a Beirne free after a foul on James Rooney, the second after Leitrim turned over the resulting kickout and Beirne swept over. Antrim's response was equally impressive, working the ball quickly down to McBride for a lovely point.
There was one more score before halftime, a patient Antrim move ending with a Conor Murray point to leave them 0-6 to 0-4 in front at the break.
Leitrim might have hand a goal when Ryan O'Rourke showed good persistence to work a chance, albeit almost on the endline, that was blocked by the keeper and cleared.
Keith Beirne scores a second half point with support from James Rooney and Darragh Rooney. Photo by Willie Donnellan
The second half saw Leitrim almost grab a goal when a Keith Beirne free dropped short and bounced, Darragh Rooney going incredibly well to flick the ball goalwards. But Antrim keeper Chris Kerr made an acrobatic save that saw him top the ball onto the woodwork before the danger was cleared.
Antrim took note and replied instantly with another McBride point, this time from a free, and it got worse for Leitrim when Ryan O'Rourke was stripped of possession, tried to win it back and was judged to have pulled down an Antrim player and was handed a black card by referee Barry Tiernan.
Antrim booted the free long and Ryan Murray curled a lovely shot over the bar to stretch the gap to four points. Leitrim tried to respond with a foul on sub Eoin Ward resulting in another Beirne free.
Matthew Fitzpatrick won a long kickout that came off a Leitrim hand, setting up McBride for another point and former star sharpshooter C.J. McGourty scored the first of three second half points as a sub on 12 minutes, a brilliant effort. McGourty's second came six minutes later before Ryan Murray got his second.
Antrim were in complete control and were shutting down Leitrim's efforts to work a goal chance or get a score with Keith Beirne, Keith Keegan (2) and Colm Moreton all missed good chances.
A McBride free, conceded by a necessary Jack Heslin foul as Antrim broke clear, and a point for sub Kristan Healy ensured a ten point winning margin for the home side and a disappointing start to the Allianz League Division 4 campaign for Leitrim.
Ryan O'Rourke is challenged by Antrim's Peter Healy. Photo by Willie Donnellan
Scorers: Keith Beirne 0-4, 2f, Conor Gaffney 0-1
Team: Diarmuid McKiernan, James Mitchell, Michael McWeeney, Matthew Murphy, Nicholas McWeeney, Keith Keegan, Shane Quinn, Colm Moreton, Donal Wrynn, Conor Gaffney
James Rooney, Aidan Flynn, Darragh Rooney, Keith Beirne, Ryan O'Rourke. Subs: Caillin Canning for Flynn (11), Dean McGovern for Canning (18), Eoin Ward for N. McWeeney (36), Darren Carberry for O’Rourke (42 BC), Damian Moran for D. Rooney (53),
Scorers: Paddy McBride 0-6, 2f; C.J. McGourty 0-3, 1f; Ryan Murray 0-2; Peter Healy, Sean Burke, Conor Murray & Kristan Healy 0-1 each
Team: Chris Kerr, Peter Healy, Patrick Gallagher, Niall Delargy, Kevin O’Boyle, Mark Sweeney, James Laverty, Sean Burke, Niall McKeever, Stephen Beatty, Conor Murray, Paddy McBride, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Colum Duffin, Ryan Murray. Subs: C.J. McGourty for Duffin (42), Paddy McAleer for Laverty (48), Michael McCarry for Burke (56), Kristan Healy for R. Murray (62), Pat Brannigan for P. Healy (69)
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin)