A game that Leitrim seemed to be in complete control of with half an hour remaining almost slipped from their grasp as 13 man Clare came within minutes of emerging victorious in the opening Allianz Division 4 match in Pairc Sean MacDiarmada on Sunday last.
ALLIANZ DIVISION 4
Leitrim were the better side in the opening half but were let down by their inability to convert their superiority into scores and led by only two points at the break. Despite the fact that they hadn't capitalised fully on their dominance, there was every reason for Leitrim supporters to be optimistic as seven minutes before the interval, Clare were reduced to 14 men when their captain Gordon Kelly was issued with a straight red card following an off the ball incident with Paul Brennan.
Remarkably the situation got even worse for the banner county when centre-forward David Tubridy was issued with a red card after he was spotted by the linesman kicking out at Paddy Maguire. That dismissal seemed as though it would have signalled the end of Clare's challenge as Leitrim quickly re-establish a two point lead. However, Leitrim seemed to have real difficulty coming to terms with playing against the 13 men. Players seemed unsure as to what their new duties were and Clare capitalised on the hesitancy within the Leitrim ranks.
Led by the inspirational Gary Brennan, who seemed to be intent on winning the midfield exchanges all on his own, Clare drew level and with just four minutes of the game remaining they had opened up a two point lead.
It seemed as though it would be an utterly forgettable day for all concerned with Leitrim football, but the players dug deep and inspired by substitute Conor Beirne they got back on level terms before Wayne McKeon scored a fine point two minutes into injury time to secure the most dramatic of victories.
To start the league campaign with a home defeat would have severely dented any hopes of promotion, but a defeat in a game they should have won more convincingly, given the fact they played against 13 men for so long would surely have been a huge blow to morale within the camp.
Conversely, winning the game when it appeared to have slipped away from them indicates a real sense of togetherness and that will only boost their confidence.
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