Leitrim fielding seven debutants claimed a fully deserved and shock win over last year’s defeated provincial finalists Sligo in the Connacht Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Markievicz Park on Sunday last.
Connacht SFC Quarter-final - Leitrim 1-10, Roscommon 0-10
A 56th minute goal by Conor Beirne proved to be the turning point in this game as it ended a concerted Sligo comeback that had closed the gap on the visitors to the minimum in the opening sixteen minutes of the second half.
Two factors proved to be the cornerstone of Leitrim’s first Connacht Championship win since 2008 in New York. Mickey Moran’s side dominated in the opening 23 minutes and built up a four points advantage over Sligo.
Then in the crucial final fifteen minutes plus injury time Leitrim raised their game and snuffed out Sligo’s challenge after the Yeats county men had appeared to have got within striking distance of their opponents when reducing the deficit to a single point.
Leitrim opened the scoring with a Paul Brennan point after 55 seconds and three minutes later Emlyn Mulligan added another point from a free after James Glancy was fouled.
Francis Quinn registered Sligo’s first score in response from play when he shot over in the 6th minute. Standby Referee Rory Hickey (Clare) had to take charge in the following minute when Meath’s Joe Curley was unable to continue due to an apparent injury.
Leitrim surged ahead with two further points by the 12th minute after Wayne McKeon and Tomás Beirne both hit the target in turn. But three minutes later Adrian Marren reduced the Leitrim lead with a point from play.
James Glancy and Conor Beirne for Leitrim traded a point each from play with two from Sligo’s Adrian Marren by the 29th minute with Marren’s scores coming from a free and a goal chance blazed over the crossbar.
Leitrim kept up the pressure in the run in to half-time with Conor Beirne tapping over a free and Adrian Croal shooting over from play while Tony Taylor hit back with a Sligo point. At the break Leitrim led by 0 – 8 to 0 – 5.
Sligo controlled the game for the first eighteen minutes of the second half when they held Leitrim scoreless and levelled the proceedings with three unanswered points with substitute Mark Breheny firing over from play and a free while Adrian Marren slotted over the equaliser from another free.
In this spell Sligo had a let off when Conor Beirne hit the post with a piledriver. Meanwhile in this period also five players received yellow cards, namely Sligo’s Mark Breheny and Adrian Marren along with Leitrim’s Garry Reynolds, Emlyn Mulligan and Paddy Maguire.
After Sligo had levelled matters Leitrim regained the lead some four minutes later when Conor Beirne fired the ball over the bar after receiving a pass from Adrian Croal.
In the following minute (56th) James Glancy after receiving a quick free sent an arrowed cross-field foot pass to Beirne who drifted behind his marker Ross Donovan and hammered home a goal from close range that dramatically changed the course of the game.
Sligo responded immediately with a Stephen Coen point from play to cut Leitrim’s lead to a goal and then Sligo’s Eamon O’Hara and Leitrim substitute Brian McDonald were yellow carded.
After a 67th minute foul on Leitrim’s Ronan Gallagher in which Sligo centre-half-back Brian Curran stomped on Gallagher, Curran received a straight red card. Emlyn Mulligan punished the resultant foul on Gallagher when he converted the free that was awarded.
Following that Leitrim’s Dermot Reynolds was yellowed carded while second yellow cards shortly afterwards for Sligo’s Eamon O’Hara and Leitrim’s Emlyn Mulligan saw both players sent-off.
Before the end Sligo substitute David Maye tapped over a free after but Leitrim held out for the win to claim a place in the Connacht semi-final against Roscommon in Páirc Seán MacDiarmada on Sunday, June 12.
LEITRIM: Cathal McCrann; Dermot Reynolds, Ronan Gallagher, Paddy Maguire; Barry Prior, Garry Reynolds, Wayne McKeon 0–1; Tomás Beirne 0– 1, Daniel Lowe; Paul Brennan 0–1, Emlyn Mulligan 0–2 (frees), Robbie Lowe; Adrian Croal 0–1, Conor Beirne 1–3 (one free), James Glancy 0–1.
Subs:- Brian McDonald for P Brennan (55 mins); Darren Sweeney for R Lowe (56 mins).
SLIGO: Philip Greene; Charlie Harrison, Ross Donovan, Neil Ewing; Paul McGovern, Brian Curran, David Rooney; Stephen Gilmartin, Tony Taylor 0–1; Alan Costello, Eamon O’Hara, Francis Quinn 0–1; Stephen Coen 0–1, Kenneth Sweeney, Adrian Marren 0– 4 (two frees).
Subs:- Seán Davey for S Gilmartin (28 mins); Mark Breheny 0–2 (one free) for K Sweeney (35 mins); David Maye 0–1 for F Quinn (62 mins); Brendan Egan for A Costello (66 mins); Keelan Cawley for M Breheny (70 mins).
Referee: Joe Curley (Meath).