GAA Allianz NFL Division 4

O'Rourke goal sees Leitrim snatch late late victory


John Connolly


John Connolly


O'Rourke goal sees Leitrim snatch late late victory

Terry Hyland and his management team discuss the win after the game

Leitrim showed their steel when they hit an unanswered 1-2 in the final six minutes of a pulsating Allianz League Division 4 tie in Joule Park Aughrim on Sunday.

In a game that really could have gone either way, Wicklow had retaken the lead with less than two minutes of normal time left but a Ryan O’Rourke goal a minute later saw Leitrim take the game by a throat when it mattered most.

Shane Moran and Gary Plunkett then both scored wonderful points to seal a famous victory that very definitely announces Leitrim as a promotion candidate.

A tense opening saw neither man trouble the umpires for the opening 12 minutes with Leitrim missing four chances in that period while Wicklow also had four missed chances.

The opening score was a goal and it came after Wicklow’s Anthony McLoughlin had been down getting extensive treatment on his shoulder. It looked like he was going to have to go off but he stayed on and it paid dividends as his surging run cut through the Leitrim rearguard before a pass across the face of the Leitrim goal was palmed into the net by Mark Doyle.

McLoughlin then immediately had to go off but Leitrim had an instant response, Ryan O’Rourke scoring a lovely effort from the corner a minute later. Wicklow keeper Mark Jackson popped over a free and they intercepted the following kickout, two quick passes and Darren Hayden was fisting the ball over the bar.

Patrick O’Connor added a point after a great move through the centre of the Leitrim defence but a long range bomb from Domhnaill Flynn and a quick counter attack that led to a Damian Moran point steadied the Leitrim ship.

Wicklow started to move some chances and a monster 53 yard free from Damian Moran cut the gap to two with less than two minutes left in the half. Jackson came up from his goal to convert a 50 but injury time saw a flurry of scores.

Paddy Maguire finished off a well worked move but Dean Healy had a goal on his mind as he drove through Leitrim rearguard, his shot rising over the bar. Domhnaill Flynn from 35 yards and Shane Moran both pointed to cut the gap to a point at the break, Wicklow leading 1-5 to 0-7.

Wicklow broke through and looked set for a goal but a poor pass and an Aidan Flynn intercepted halted the danger and Leitrim went straight down the field where a long Jack Heslin run led to a fine point for Damian Moran.

Unfortunately for Moran, that was his last involvement as injury forced him from the game but his replacement Evan Sweeney had an instant impact, scoring seconds after he came on to take the lead for Leitrim.

Diarmuid McKiernan made a big save to deny Theo Smith a goal and Leitrim broke upfield where Jack Heslin fired over. Darren Hayden responded for Wicklow but it was tit for tat as Ryan O’Rourke replied while Mark Jackson (free) and Pearce Dolan swapped points.

However, Wicklow were beginning to find their form as Mark Doyle put over a free as did keeper Jackson to tie the scores and a minute later, Patrick O’Connor fired over a wonder point to take the lead for the home side.

Both teams then started to miss chances as the tension began to tell, some ferocious tackling from both sides halting the attacks.

The mini-drought ended when Ryan O’Rourke saw a free tipped over the bar before Ray Mulvey sidefooted the ball back over the bar. But back came Wicklow with Jackson converting a free before sub Conor McGraynor scored a monster point to leave his team a point in front.

With Leitrim looking lost, the game changed when Pearce Dolan went on a big run and crossed the ball for Ryan O’Rourke to tap to the net from inside the square and suddenly Leitrim were flying.

Leitrim played keep-ball for a couple of minutes and still managed to get two wonderful points from Shane Moran and sub Gary Plunkett to seal a memorable victory.