Leitrim will go at Wicklow “hammer and thongs” in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada according to joint manager Brian Breen who revealed that the County Senior footballers are relishing the prospect of facing the Garden County in the All-Ireland Championship Qualifiers.
At the time of going to press on Tuesday, Croke Park were still working out a complicated set of fixtures with Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Cavan and Westmeath all drawn at home for their games and Conncht counties keen to avoid a clash with the Provincial Final in Hyde Park on July 15.
It is believed, subject to final confirmation from Croke Park, that the clash with Wicklow will take place on Saturday, July 14, with a 7 pm throw-in.
The task of picking up the Leitrim players after the demolition job in McHale Park was made a lot easier when the Green & Gold were drawn at home to Division 4 Champions Wicklow last Monday morning on TV3, despite Leitrim suffering a six point defeat at the Leinster county’s hands earlier this year.
“It is not the worst case scenario,” Brian told the Observer on Monday, “Wicklow is a game where we know we have an opportunity and the home draw most importantly means that we won’t have a problem in convincing the lads we have a chance to winning this game.
“Some times our biggest problem is trying to convince the players that we have a chance to beating a team like Mayo but we won’t have that problem and going by some of the texts I have received today (Monday), the lads realise that this is a game we can win.”
Leitrim’s record in the Qualifiers is not one that inspires confidence but Brian will fall back on the lessons learned in Ruislip to motivate and inspire his players in the next week and a half - “We’ll have to go at it hammer and thongs and treat Wicklow the same way we treated London.
“We have to forget about the next day or the last game and concentrate on this one game. I know that when draws are made, you can fear the worst but I think the players have reacted positively to the draw.
“We’re obviously well aware of our record of never winning a game in the Qualifiers but I think the players are determined to put that one right and redeem our championship after the humilation in Castlebar.”
To overcome the trauma of the 22 point loss in McHale Park, Brian and fellow joint manager George Dugdale took the unusual approach of letting the players go back to their clubs to recharge their batteries and giving them time to themselves to deal with the disappointment and devastation of such a heavy loss.
“We felt straight after the game that it might be best to leave them alone for the week because when you are with the County team, you can be in your own little bubble and some times you need a break from each other, a break from myself and George, and to go back to their clubs and refresh themselves.
“You don’t know for sure if that approach will work, you are trying to get the Mayo game out of their heads but from looking at the texts I’ve been getting today, I have no doubt that the lads are enthusiastic about taking on Wicklow.”
Neither does the 1994 Connacht title winner feel that the League game in early April will have any bearing on the Qualifier in Pairc Sean, although he admits that the DVD of the game will be studied intently over the next few days.
“The League game won’t have any relevance at all. For one, we have a home game but we will obviously look at it and try to pin-point what went wrong and look at those five minutes where the game got away from us.
“It happened again in the Mayo game, five minutes before halftime and it is something we are going to have to look at in the short and long term. It may not be something we can progress in just two weeks because we have to focus on the here and now and on Wicklow on the weekend after next.”
Brian was already on the phone to former Leitrim and Allen Gaels star and current Waterford manager John Owens looking for tips - “I was on to John at 9 am on Monday morning looking for anything he could tell me about Wicklow.
“They’ve lost Leighton Glynn which is a big blow but they have a big aerial threat and Tony Hannon is a very dangerous player and even without Glynn, John felt they had some serious threats.”
Leitrim benefitted greatly from last Monday’s draw, the only defeated Provincial semi-finalist to receive a home draw while a rejuventated Roscommon, on a high after an unexpected win against Armagh, were handed a daunting task against Tyrone while Cavan got the game everyone secretly was wishing for when Kildare were drawn out to travel to Breffni Park with the controversial Seanie Johnsone finally in their ranks.
Longford won’t be unduly fazed by facing Limerick in Pearse Park but will face the unusual positon of staring the game as favourites.
The full draw for the second round of the Qualifiers is as follows: Antrim v Galway; Leitrim v Wicklow; Westmeath v Kerry; Roscommon v Tyrone; Longford v Limerick; Cavan v Kildare; Laois v Monaghan; Tipperary v Wexford.
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