Going up to Belfast and overturning Antrim in Saturday’s refixed Division 4 contest was never going to be an easy task, and unfortunately it proved to be an impossible one as the Leitrim succumbed to a seven point defeat on a day where missed opportunities were plentiful.
With six changes from the victory over Derry, Leitrim were slow out of the blocks and the game was barely three minutes old when Antrim struck for a goal from Maeve McCurdy, who evaded the challenges of a few defenders before rifling the ball into the back of Michelle Guckian’s net.
The Saffron county added another couple of points to the scoreboard inside the next five minutes with Kayla Farren expertly firing over the bar from 20 yards before Jenny McCavana made her way from centre-back to break through the lines and tap over, with a goal on the cards.
Leitrim came alive afterwards and had a massive chance to cut the deficit to two points from the resulting kickout, Laura O’Dowd and Michelle Heslin combining brilliantly to put Dearbhaile Beirne through on goal but the Mohill player’s shot whistled past Anna McCann’s post.
Beirne opened her side’s tally with a good point from play not long afterwards but a flurry of goal chances went abegging, a couple hit tamely wide before McCann was called into action to stop Eilish O’Dowd’s shot from finding the top corner.
In that period of dominance, Leitrim should have found themselves going into the lead but instead it wasn’t long until the task got even tougher as referee Shaun McLoughlin produced a yellow card to Laura O’Dowd for a high tackle on Antrim captain Saoirse Tennyson.
Antrim took advantage of the extra player straight away with McCurdy getting her second score of the day and then kicked another beauty not two minutes later.
Leitrim kept plugging away and Michelle Heslin got off the mark after some good link up play from Edel Kelly, but Antrim again responded in style with Tennyson smashing home her side’s second goal of the game.
Three of the next four scores before half-time went to Leitrim with Michelle Heslin grabbing her second before Vivienne Egan popped over a couple of points.
Again, though, it was Antrim who had the telling say with lively Sarah Louise McLaughlin hitting the back of the net before Tennyson pointed in the final seconds of the half to leave the home side ahead on a scoreline of 3-6 to 0-5.
Improvement was needed in the second half and after Antrim got the first two points, Leitrim came to life with goals from Dearbhaile Beirne and Vivienne Egan within a minute of each other to cut the deficit to six.
That became five a short time later with Egan striking over a lovely free from the left hand side after Beirne had been dragged back when charging through on goal.
Numerous chances to close the gap further followed but weren’t taken and the game went score for score: Michelle Heslin and Egan adding further goals that were cancelled out by Orla Corr and Cathy Carey, the latter in the closing seconds of the game to add a bit of gloss onto the scoreline for the Ulster women.
Overall, it was a case of what might have been for Leitrim, as had they taken even a quarter of the chances missed, a win would've been forthcoming. However, they didn’t and will have to work on the quality of shooting in order to trouble the best teams in the division.
Lots to improve on but definite positives to report in numerous areas of the performance and hopefully win number two will be forthcoming versus Louth at the weekend.
GAME AT A GLANCE
MAIN WOMAN: Antrim’s Maeve McCurdy stood out and captain Saoirse Tennyson’s flying raids from wingback were highly impressive. For Leitrim, Vivienne Egan did plenty of damage in the full forward line on her first start for the senior county team.
TURNING POINT: With ten minutes to go, Orla Corr’s fortuitous tap-in at the back post came after Leitrim had dominated for their longest spell of the match. It ensured the Saffrons had enough of a cushion to sit back behind the ball and see out the game.
TALKING POINT: After last week’s victory over Derry boosted hopes of a tilt at promotion, Leitrim were quickly brought down to earth. The performance was not without promise but improvement is definitely needed to get out of what is a competitive division, headed by Carlow and Fermanagh.
REF WATCH: Shaun McLoughlin harshly sin-binned Laura O’Dowd halfway through the first spell when perhaps a ticking would have sufficed and let Antrim away with a few questionable late tackles.
HIGHLIGHT: Some of the counter-attacking moves from Antrim were eye-catching but the score of the game probably went to Leitrim’s Michelle Heslin, who drove over from 30 yards after a neat give-and-go with Karen Connolly.
LOWLIGHT: Leitrim’s inability to convert numerous shots on goal ultimately proved costly and if they want to have any hope of getting out of Division 4, passing up on so many guilt-edged chances must stop soon.
WHAT NOW?: Home comforts again for Leitrim as they take on Louth this Sunday, time and venue to be confirmed. It will be a tough outing against last year’s All-Ireland Junior finalists but victory will put the ladies right back in the mix.
Best of luck to the senior ladies on Sunday! pic.twitter.com/2svxYKYhYH— Leitrim LGFA (@LeitrimLGFA) February 21, 2019
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Vivienne Egan 2-3, 2f; Michelle Heslin 1-2; Dearbhaile Beirne 1-1
Team: Michelle Guckian, Abbi Sweeney, Clare Owens, Grainne Prior, Aisling Quinn, Sinead Tighe, Karen Connolly, Aine Heslin, Eilish O’Dowd, Laura O’Dowd, Michelle Heslin, Emma McGovern, Edel Kelly, Dearbhaile Beirne, Vivienne Egan. Subs: Roisin McGrenaghan for Quinn (40), Shauna McGrath for Kelly (50), Edel Shanley for Connolly (53)
Scorers: Maeve McCurdy 1-3; Saoirse Tennyson, Orla Corr, Cathy Carey (f), Sarah Louise McLaughlin 1-1 each; Kayla Farren, Jenny McCavana & Aoife Taggart 0-1 each
Team: Anna McCann, Clara Brown, Caoimhe Stewart, Nicole Killen, Saoirse Tennyson, Jenny McCavana, Lucy Wallace, Aine Tubridy, Orla Corr, Niamh Enright, Cathy Carey, Kayla Farren, Sarah Louise McLaughlin, Maeve McCurdy, Aoife Taggart. Subs: Emma Enright for Tubridy (48), Alicia Bartlett for Corr (53), Abi Carleton for Taggart (55)