Leitrim had to dig deep and come from behind to claim victory in the closing stages of Sunday’s Allianz NHL Division 3B game at a rain soaked Irvinestown’s Bawnacre Centre 4G pitch.
Fermanagh had taken the lead with 12 minutes of normal time left but a Zak Moradi 59th minute goal put Leitrim on the road to their second league win and killed off the home side’s challenge.
While Fermanagh gave Leitrim quite a second half fright, the visitors held a slim edge for most of the game.
Thomas Cleary drew first blood when he put over a first minute Fermanagh point. Shortly afterwards it was level pegging with Leitrim’s Cathal O’Donovan firing over at the other end.
With the play swinging from end to end, Fermanagh went back in front after John Paul McGarry shot a second minute point. But Cathal O’Donovan hit back three minutes later to level matters for a second time in the opening five minutes.
Leitrim took the lead for the first time when Clement Cunniffe converted a 10th minute free and he stretched Leitrim’s lead when he hit the target from a 15th minute ‘65.’ Leitrim went three points ahead four minutes later when O’Donovan’s effort split the posts from play.
Fermanagh staged a rally and curbed Leitrim’s dominance in the game. Rian Ó’Buaig, from play, and John Duffy, from a free, hits points that reduced Leitrim’s lead to the minimum by the 24th minute.
Kevin McGrath became the game’s first Leitrim player to see yellow in the 26th minute and John Duffy levelled the contest for a third time in the 27th minute when he whipped over a Fermanagh free.
When Clement Cunniffe put over a free three minutes later, he put Leitrim back in front for a second time. A minute later Leitrim claimed a big advantage when Colm Moreton shot to the Fermanagh net after getting on the end of delivery and outwitting Fermanagh keeper Ciarán McTeague to hammer home the score.
Leitrim might have had a second goal a minute later had not McTeague made a very good stop to deny Zak Moradi’s effort.
At the break Leitrim led by 1-6 to 0- 5 after slightly bossing the game for the greater part of the first half. In the opening minute after the restart Rian Ó’Buaig reduced Leitrim’s advantage to three points when he fired over a point.
Cunniffe kept Leitrim in the driving seat with a pointed free a minute later but John Duffy hit back for the Erne County when he tapped over a 40th minute 25 metres free.
Cunniffe ensured that Leitrim maintained their four point advantage when he hit over a 60 metre free.
Fermanagh reduced Leitrim’s lead to the minimum following a 50th minute goalmouth scramble after John Duffy shot to the net. Duffy put Fermanagh back on level terms five minutes later when he tapped over a free.
Cunniffe steadied Leitrim’s nerves momentarily when he put over a massive 57th minute free from 70 metres, to put his side back in front. However this lead only lasted for a few seconds because Fermanagh’s Rian Ó’Buaig hit back at the other end with a levelling point.
Within another minute, Ó’Buaig put Fermanagh back in the lead for the first time in 53 minutes when converted a free. Fermanagh’s slender lead however was short-lived as soon afterwards Zak Moradi fired home a well executed Leitrim goal that gave the visitors an two point advantage.
Fermanagh was reduced to 14 men in the 60th minute after John Paul McGarry received a second yellow card. Two minutes later Ben Murray stretched Leitrim lead with a well hit point from outfield.
Cathal O’Donovan gave Leitrim a four points cushion when he put over a 66th minute point. In the following minute Fermanagh sub Barrie Duffy saw yellow.
An exchange of points at opposite ends closed out the scoring in the game with Clement Cunniffe putting over his seventh Leitrim point from a placed ball and Fermanagh’s John Duffy replying with a point from play but it was Leitrim who held on to win.
While Colm Moreton and Zak Moradi’s goal were crucial in Leitrim’s win, it was Clement Cunniffe’s seven points from frees along with his key director of operations role as centre back that provided the cornerstone for victory on the day.
After a victory over Sligo and a narrow loss to Lancashire, Sunday’s win over Fermanagh, puts Leitrim in good position to contest the Division 3B final provided they beat Cavan and other results goes their way.
Zak Moradi’s 59th minute goal turned the tide in the game for Leitrim after Fermanagh had grabbed a one point lead some six minutes earlier and seemed to have gained enough momentum to drive on with home advantage for a win.
Alfie Devine coolly kept a firm grip on the proceedings at all times. He allowed the game to flow quite freely. It was a sporting contest but when necessary on a few occasion, Devine also stepped in to issue yellow cards.
Clement Cunniffe’s spectacularly hit pointed 57th minute free from 70 metres put Leitrim back in front after Fermanagh had fought back in the second half and levelled the game two minutes earlier.
The transfer of this game from Brewster Park Enniskillen, where spectator facilities are good, to Irvinestown’s Bawnacre 4G pitch, where spectator facilities are almost non existent, was not great for Leitrim or Fermanagh fans on the wet occasion.
Scorers: Clement Cunniffe 0-7, 7f; Cathal O’Donovan 0-4; Colm Moreton & Zak Moradi 1-0 each; Ben Murray 0-1
Team: Declan Molloy; Kevin McGrath, Cathal McCrann, Paul Earley; Enda Moreton, Clement Cunniffe, Niall McLoughlin; James Glancy, Liam Moreton; Ben Murray, Karl McDermott, David McGovern; Cathal O’Donovan, Colm Moreton, Zak Moradi. Subs: Gavin O’Hagan for C. Moreton (55); Declan Ryan for Earley (56)
Scorers: John Duffy 1-5, 4f; Rian Ó’Buaig 0-4, 2f; Thomas Cleary & John Paul McGarry 0-1 each
Team: Ciarán McTeague; Aaron Magee, Ciaran Rafferty, Andrew Breslin; Thomas Cleary, John Paul McGarry, Matthew Teague; John Duffy, Rian Ó’Buaig; Conor McShea, Shea Curran, Dylan Bannon; Barry McPhillips, Francis McBrien, Odhrán Russell. Subs: Barrie Duffy for McPhillips (50); Adam McShea for Curran (64)
Referee: Alfie Devine (Westmeath)