Keith Beirne scores Leitrim's first point of the game. Photo by Willie Donnellan
Missed chances and a superb Roscommon forward line were the glaring differences between Leitrim and the reigning Connacht Champions in a demoralising Connacht Senior Championship clash in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada on Saturday evening.
Roscommon underlined their billing as one of the top eight teams in the country with a display full of attacking verve and clinical efficiency, scoring an incredible 15 points in the second half and just three of their tally of 24 points from placed balls.
Leitrim packed their defence, battled manfully and denied Roscommon the goal they craved but the clever movement and slick passing ensured that it always seemed as if the player in Primrose & Blue had time and space to take their scores.
It will seem strange to say that this wasn’t as bad as last year’s 17 point mauling in Hyde Park but Leitrim were competitive in this game for much longer periods, it was their shooting that let them down on the night.
As much as you felt that Roscommon always had the edge, Leitrim missed three scoreable frees and had a goal chance twice cleared off the line by the keeper and defender, chances that would have been a much better reflection of Leitrim’s efforts.
Paddy Maguire tries to escape two Roscommon players. Photo by Willie Donnellan
But it was the 40 minutes between Leitrim’s second and third points that did the damage as Roscommon hit an incredible 11 unanswered points to put the game beyond all doubt.
Leitrim fared much better in the final 22 plus minutes, hitting eight points but Roscommon were always in control as they scored 11 themselves to ensure there was never any glimmer of hope.
Keith Beirne opened the scoring after a patient move, curling a 40 yard shot over the bar after a minute plus of action. Roscommon’s first shot from Ciaran Murtagh hit the post and was cleared but then came Leitrim’s great missed chance.
Jack Heslin took off on a surging run and seemed destined to go but keeper Colm Lavin managed to get his hand to it, a defender poking it clear. A goal still looked certain as Keith Beirne bore down on the loose ball but a defender managed to block his goal-bound shot out for a fifty.
Unfortunately, Beirne sent the fifty well wide, a foreboding of what was to come for the Mohill sharpshooter and Roscommon went in front when Diarmuid Murtagh punished what looked like a soft foul on John McManus.
Murtagh then outfielded his man in the corner and ran in to fist the ball over the bar but a silly push on Donal Wrynn allowed Beirne put over a free on eight minutes. It was the last time the game was close.
Fintan Cregg blasted over from 50 yards after a patient move and Diarmuid Murtagh would brilliantly sidefoot a ball from almost under the stand over the bar. Roscommon intercepted a poor Emlyn Mulligan pass and a long run up the left wing ended with Brian Stack curling the ball over the bar.
Ciaran Murtagh also scored from the 50 yard line before Enda Smith was denied a goal when Diarmuid McKiernan tipped a ferocious shot over the bar on 21 minutes as Leitrim were dropping efforts short and wide.
Ciaran Murtagh and Keith Beirne both had bad bad wides but the half ended with points from frees for Diarmuid and Ciaran Murtagh, leaving Roscommon 0-9 to 0-2 ahead at the break.
Leitrim needed a good start in the second half and introduced Ryan O’Rourke for Jack Heslin as they would play with the wind. But it was Roscommon who put the game out of reach with points from Conor Devaney, Donal Smith and Ciaran Murtagh in the first seven minutes of the second half and all from play.
Niall Kilroy would add another before sub Darragh Rooney, on for Keith Beirne, gathered a long ball for Donal Wrynn and held off his man to score on 13 minutes, ending a 39 minute spell without a score.
Enda Smith curled over a point and was promptly taken off, his brother Donal adding another midway through the second half.
Ryan O’Rourke then hit a monster score from 40 yards out on the wing but Cathal Compton broke his way through two tackles to score a minute later.
It really became tit for tat and it seemed as if sub Damian Moran and Cathal Cregg were involved in their own individual battle with Moran scoring a brilliant point from under the stand and Cregg replying.
Darragh Rooney scored a good point after a strong run from James Rooney with Moran scoring another big effort from the other wing. Cathal Cregg curled an equally brilliant point over while another sub Shane Killoran scored from distance.
Damian Moran got his third point in seven minutes but Diarmuid Murtagh responded on the very next attack.
Shane Quinn got his just reward for a powerful run and a defiant display when he blasted over from nearly 60 yards but Cregg hit two quick points and Tadhg O’Rourke another to stretch the Roscommon lead.
Emlyn Mulligan converted a fifty but Roscommon had the last word when John McManus fisted over after an intricate passing move that summed up the difference between the two teams on the day.
Scorers: Damian Moran 0-3, Keith Beirne (2f) & Darragh Rooney 0-2 each; Shane Quinn, Emlyn Mulligan (50) & Ryan O’Rourke 0-1 each
Team: Diarmuid McKiernan; Alan Armstrong, Paddy Maguire, Michael McWeeney; Noel Plunkett, Shane Quinn, James Rooney; Mark Plunkett, Dean McGovern; Jack Heslin, Emlyn Mulligan, Brendan Gallagher; Aidan Flynn, Keith Beirne, Dónal Wrynn. Subs: Ryan O’Rourke for Heslin (HT), Darragh Rooney for Beirne (43), Damien Moran & Oisin Madden for M. Plunkett & Gallagher (52), Eoin Ward for James Rooney (68), Domhnall Flynn for Aidan Flynn (70)
Scorers: Diarmuid Murtagh 0-5, 2f; Cathal Cregg 0-4; Ciaran Murtagh 0-3, 1f; Enda Smith & Donal Smith 0-2 each; John McManus, Fintan Cregg, Brian Stack, Cathal Compton, Tadhg O’Rourke, Niall Kilroy, Conor Devaney & Shane Killoran 0-1 each
Team: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Peter Domican, Niall McInerney; John McManus, Fintan Cregg, Brian Stack; Cathal Compton, Tadhg O’Rourke; Enda Smith, Niall Kilroy, Conor Devaney; Dónal Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Ciaráin Murtagh. Subs used: Conor Daly & Cathal Cregg for E. Smith & C. Murtagh (52), Shane Killoran & Ronan Stack for B. Stack & Kilroy (59), Finbar Cregg for D. Smith (61), Padraig Kelly for Compton (66).
Referee: Joe McQuillan
SEE WWW.LEITRIMOBSERVER.IE AND NEXT WEDNESDAY'S LEITRIM OBSERVER FOR REACTION AND ANALYSIS FROM SATURDAY'S CONNACHT SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL