Injuries cost Leitrim dearly in the Connacht Semi-Final against Mayo and they could come back to haunt Leitrim next Saturday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada when they take on Division Four champions Wicklow in the second round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers (6.00 throw-in).
Wayne McKeon hasn’t returned to full training after the ankle injury he sustained in McHale Park while Shane Moran, just recovered from a dead leg in Castlebar, and Fabian McMorrow both sustained injuries in training last Thursday.
Both left training early, Moran having picked up a knock and McMorrow with a strain, and managers Brian Breen and George Dugdale will be anxiously waiting on their recovery ahead of a difficult assignment with Wicklow.
Daniel Lowe is battling to be back in contention for a starting role on Saturday but with the team already weakened by so many absentees from last year, fingers will be crossed that the trio are available.
Facing Wicklow was warmly welcomed by fans as one of the best possible outcomes in the draw but any of the few Leitrim supporters who witnessed the game in Aughrim at the beginning of April will be all too aware of the task facing Leitrim.
Wicklow may have struggled against Waterford in their previous game but even without Leighton Glynn, they possess quite a good deal of forward talent with Tony Hannon, Sean Furlong and Conor McGaynor posing a very difficult test for Leitrim’s backline.
In the Aughrim game, Leitrim’s massed defence restricted Wicklow in the early stages but a change of tactics from the running game to raining high balls down on the Leitrim rearguard had an instant effect and although six points was the final margin, Wicklow were far more comfortable than the score-line suggests.
That is no to say that Leitrim didn’t cause Wicklow problems and Emlyn Mulligan in particular caused the home team real concern but with Wicklow dominating possession in the middle of the field, Leitrim’s forwards didn’t get enough ball to do enough damage to a far from secure looking Wicklow rearguard.
Leitrim recorded a victory over Cavan last Sunday in a challenge game but confidence will be a key issue against Wicklow – recovering from the mauling in Castlebar is no easy task and unless Leitrim have a full complement of players, it is going to be a devilishly tricky task.
The odds are that Wicklow will continue Leitrim’s woes in the qualifiers but if Leitrim attack the visitors with the same spirit and ferocity they showed against Mayo for the first half hour, a good performance is guaranteed and perhaps even a first ever Qualifier victory.
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