An Aughawillan operating well below maximum levels opened the defence of their Connacht Gold Leitrim Senior Championship title with an impressive and comfortable win over neighbours Aughnasheelin in Cloone on Friday night.
The first game of the 2019 Senior Championship pitted the Senior winners of last year against the Intermediate winners of two years ago but apart from a few goal chances early in the first quarter for Aughnasheelin, Aughawillan were never truly troubled as they cruised to a 13 point victory.
Aughnasheelin, it has to be said, battled gamely after starting the game without Fintan Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Cullen, Dean Flanagan and Fergal Earley and they suffered a huge blow just seven minutes into the contest when County star Sean McWeeney had to be taken off due to injury.
McWeeney collided with Leitrim team-mate Mark Plunkett in a completely accidental clash but the sickening noise of the coming together left spectators in no doubt it was a heavy knock. McWeeney suffered a heavy blow to the face just below his eye and had to be helped off the field while Plunkett had to come off for well over ten minutes with a nose pumping blood.
Ciaran Gilheany, Noel Plunkett and Pearse Dolan had points inside the first quarter with Conor Cullen's drive glancing the crossbar as it went over for Aughnasheelin. Michael Domican closed the gap to a point but from there to the break, it was all Aughawillan as they scored 1-6 to no reply.
Points from Gilheaney, Morgan Quinn and Noel Plunkett were added to by an expertly taken Morgan Quinn penalty to leave Aughawillan with a 1-9 to 0-2 lead at the break. The lead stretched to ten points courtesy of scores from Stephen Gilheany, Mark Plunkett and Barry Prior.
However, a fisted Ciaran Cullen goal gave Aughnasheelin a boost and points from Cullen, Barry McWeeney and Gavin Sammon closed the gap to eight points with seven minutes to go.
But Aughawillan finished in style - points from Morgan Quinn, Stephen Gilheany and Barry Prior were added to by a goal from Gary Plunkett who got on the end of a brilliant length of the field move.