Leitrim created history when defeating Wicklow in Saturday evening’s hard fought All-Ireland Qualifier Round 2 game in Páirc Seán MacDiarmada after turning in a gutsy performance to win their first ever Qualifier game following successive defeats in this competition since it began in 2001 and the reward is another home tie in Round 3 against Laois on Saturday next, throw-in 7pm.
Once Leitrim got ahead with a point from a 35th minute Emlyn Mulligan free conversion before the break they kept Wicklow at arms length right up to and past the final whistle.
A wasteful Wicklow, who shot 14 wides, closed the gap on Leitrim to two points in the final ten minutes but the home side surged again to run out deserving winners with three points to spare. Leitrim’s success against Wicklow can be credited in a large measure to Emlyn Mulligan, James Glancy, Cathal McCrann and Clonguish clubman Enda Williams.
Mulligan and Glancy led the attack contributing 0–6 (all frees) and 0–5, respectively. McCrann made a super first half save that kept Leitrim in the game while Williams marshalled the defence well and instigated many attacking moves from within his own half of the field that proved fruitful.
Ray Cox opened Leitrim’s account when he shot over in the third minute. Wicklow got on level terms after Joey Kelly hit over from play after being put through from a Tony Hannon sideline kick.
Almost immediately James Glancy edged Leitrim back in front with a point from play. But Seanie Furlong made it level pegging again when he tapped over a 10th minute Wicklow free. Emlyn Mulligan put Leitrim back in front two minutes when he hit the target with his third free.
But within the space of another two minutes Joey Kelly brought Wicklow back on terms with a point from play. Wicklow took the lead for the first in the game when John McGrath shot over in the 15th minute. A James Glancy Leitrim point four minutes later levelled the proceedings for the fourth time.
The game returned to a stalemate situation by the 27th minute after Joey Kelly got Wicklow back in front with a point from play and Emlyn Mulligan replied with a free tap over. Leitrim keeper Cathal McCrann made a terrific 28th minute save to deny a goal bound effort from John McGrath, who found himself in a one-on-one situation with McCrann.
The sides drew level for a sixth time in the first half after Leitrim’s James Glancy from play and Wicklow’s Tony Hannon from a free traded points by the 34th minute. An Emlyn Mulligan free conversion before the break sent Leitrim in leading by 0–7 to 0–6 at half-time.
After the restart Leitrim took a solid grip on the game and edged into a four points lead by the 49th minute.
In this period when Wicklow failed to score Leitrim forged ahead with points from two Emlyn Mulligan frees and from play by substitute Gerry Hickey.
Nineteen minutes of the second half had elapsed before Wicklow opened their account with a point from substitute Nicky Mernagh. A 55th minute point from play by James Glancy restored Leitrim’s four point lead.
Meanwhile Leitrim had a let off five minutes later when James Stafford drove a Wicklow goal chance wide. Then Wicklow managed to cut the deficit with Leitrim to two points by the 63rd minute after Dean Healy and Seanie Furlong popped over a point apiece for the Garden County.
In the final action of the game Emlyn Mulligan restored Leitrim’s three points advantage with his sixth free conversion while John McGrath hit back with a Wicklow point and James Glancy did likewise for the home side before the end.
LEITRIM: Cathal McCrann; Alan Wynne, Fabian McMorrow, Paddy Maguire; Colm Clarke, Enda Williams, Daniel Beck; Darren Sweeney, Shane Moran; Paul Brennan, Emlyn Mulligan 0–6 (6 frees), Paddy McGowan; Ray Cox 0–1, James Glancy 0–5, Kevin Conlan.
Subs:- Gerry Hickey 0–1 for Sweeney (25 mins); Robbie Lowe for Moran (56 mins); Adrian Croal for Conlan (63 mins); Brian McDonald for Cox (73 mins).
WICKLOW: John Flynn; Stephen Kelly, Anthony McLoughlin, Alan Byrne; Dean Healy 0–1, Stephen Byrne, Darren Hayden; James Stafford, Peader Burke; Joey Kelly 0–3, Daragh O’Sullivan, Rory Finn; Seanie Furlong 0–2 (1 free), John McGrath 0–2, Tony Hannon 0–1 (free).
Subs:- Niall Gaffney for A Byrne (40 mins); C McGraynor for D O’Sullivan (42 mins); Nicky Mernagh (0-1) for T Hannon (48 mins); Paddy Dalton for J Kelly (65 mins).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).