Darragh Rooney scores a first half point for Leitrim in Celtic Park Picture: Leitrim GAA
Leitrim suffered their first defeat of the Allianz League Division 4 campaign when Derry turned on the power to run home seven point winners in Celtic Park, Derry this evening (Saturday).
The two undefeated teams will face each other in the Division 4 Final in two weeks time and Derry grabbed the early bragging rights as they went from a one point lead at the break to lead by 11 points with 15 minutes to go.
A Leitrim rally, highlighted by a goal from Gary Plunkett, prompted a Leitrim rally but it was too little too late and a second goal from the impressive Shane McGuigan ended the game as a contest.
However, neither team will read too much into this game as both are likely to be very different teams in the League final with Leitrim handing seven players their first start of the season.
Darragh Rooney opened the scoring after just 33 seconds from a mark free with Derry’s Christopher Bradley replying from a free after a foul on Enda Lynn. But a second mark for Rooney led to a second point for the Melvin Gaels man.
Another foul on Lynn saw Shane McGuigan tap over to level the scores on nine minutes before Bradley put the home side in front for the first time on 11 minutes from another placed ball and they went further ahead with a massive McGuigan free from in front of the stand.
Leitrim, however, fought back with a free from Emlyn Mulligan followed quickly by a Shane Moran score to tie the scores after 15 minutes.
The Ballinamore man then edged Leitrim back in front on 17 minutes and although Derry levelled with their first score from play 25 minutes when Niall Keenan scored, Leitrim hit back with Fergal McTague’s first ever point for the senior team, a massive effort from 45 yards to regain the lead.
The first goal chance of the game saw Cathal McCrann equal to the task as he stopped Shane McGuigan’s effort but McGuigan did get a score, via the post, to tie the scores once more after 30 minutes.
Bradley edged Derry in front again but a third mark for Darragh Rooney enabled Leitrim to tie the scores but McGuigan quickly tapped over from a mark himself to restore Derry’s slender lead approaching halftime.
That was the way it stayed with Derry leading 0-8 to 0-7 at the break and both sides made changes at the break, Gary Plunkett and Sean McWeeney replacing Eoin Ward and Fergal McTague while Padraig Cassidy and Padraig McGrogan came on for Derry.
Five minutes into the second half, Derry stretched their lead with a point from Conor McAtamney and Derry started to put some daylight between them and Leitrim when Chris Bradley put a sideline free over the Leitrim crossbar to go three up.
Leitrim had a let off when two defenders appeared to drag down Derry’s Conor McCloskey while Nicholas McWeeney joined the list of players making a first appearance in the 2019 League when he replaced Aidan Flynn.
Derry start to smell blood as Bradley and McGuigan both scored good points to increase their lead to five points ten minutes into the second half and McGuigan killed off whatever hope Leitrim retained when a high ball into the area found the Derry man unmarked and he rounded Cathal McCrann to fire to an empty net on 49 minutes.
Conor Doherty tapped over from an offensive mark before McAtamney landed his second and Michael McEvoy also got on the scoresheet.
Leitrim got a badly needed boost when Gary Plunkett finished to the net on 55 minutes to cut the Derry lead to eight points, a score quickly followed an Emlyn Mulligan point. Derry settled themselves with another from Bradley.
But Leitrim seemed to find their form as Cillian McGloin scored a great point on the break before, in the space of a minute, Mohill duo Shane Quinn and Domhnaill Flynn both pointed to cut the gap to five points with eight minutes to go.
The next score, however, proved crucial as Shane McGuigan pounced for his second goal despite the best efforts of Cathal McCrann to reopen an eight point gap with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Conor Cullen was introduced for his first start of the year as the game petered out, Flynn hitting his second since coming on from a free to leave Derry seven point winners.
SEE THIS WEEK'S LEITRIM OBSERVER FOR REACTION AND ANALYSIS
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Gary Plunkett 1-0; Darragh Rooney 0-3, Shane Moran, Emlyn Mulligan, Domhnaill Flynn 0-2 each; Shane Quinn, Cillian McGloin & Fergal McTague 0-1 each
Team: Cathal McCrann, Aidan Flynn, Fergal McTague, Conor Reynolds, Oisin Madden, Mark Plunkett, James Rooney, Shane Moran, Dean McGovern, Shane Quinn, Emlyn Mulligan, Eoin Ward, Cillian McGloin, Pearce Dolan, Darragh Rooney. Subs: Gary Plunkett & Sean McWeeney for Ward & McTague (HT), Nicholas McWeeney for Flynn (42), Domhnaill Flynn (60), Conor Cullen (65)
Scorers: Shane McGuigan 2-5, Christopher Bradley 0-6, Conor McAtamney 0-2, Niall Keenan, Conor Doherty & Michael McEvoy 0-1 each
Team: Ben McKinless, Conor McCluskey, Brendan Rogers, Sean F Quinn, Eoghan Concannon, Christopher McKaigue, Niall Keenan, Michael McEvoy, Conor McAtamney, Patrick Coney, Christopher Bradley, Conor Doherty, Jason Rocks, Shane McGuigan, Enda Lynn. Subs: Karl McKaigue for Concannon (11); P Cassidy & P McGrogan for Coney & Rocks (HT); Declan Hughes for Enda Lynn (58)