A brave Leitrim team just came up short when going under to Laois by a two point margin in the All-Ireland Qualifier Round 3 game in Carrick-On-Shannon on Saturday evening last where the visitors only got ahead of the home side in the final quarter.
The concession of a soft goal before half-time probably proved to be Leitrim’s downfall at the end. Following a cracking first half display Leitrim led by double scores by 1–7 to 0–5 in the 36th minute when Laois sent a ball into the Leitrim goalmouth which deceived keeper Cathal McCrann and fell kindly for Conor Boyle to drive to the net.
Laois, who were being outplayed by Leitrim up to that point, were suddenly back in contention and now had a platform on which to start the second half fight back. It still took a wasteful Laois side that shot eighteen wides over the hour until the 54th minute to get ahead of Leitrim.
Laois opened the scoring with a second minute point from play by Gary Walsh. Leitrim won a free at the opposite end a minute later and Emlyn Mulligan converted. Mulligan put Leitrim in front when he converted another free four minutes later and Ray Cox was then on target with a 10th minute from play.
Laois got inside the Leitrim half twice over the next four minutes and drew level after Ross Munnelly and Damien O’Connor shot a point apiece from play and a 17th minute Padraig Clancy point from play put the visitors back in front.
Leitrim levelled with a point from another Emlyn Mulligan free and then a fine piece of individual play saw Kevin Conlan fired the ball to the Laois net from close range after driving in from midway out on the left wing before pulling the trigger.
Leitrim extended their advantage to five points following a brace of frees converted by Emlyn Mulligan and scores were then exchanged between Laois corner-forward Colm Kelly (free) and Colm Clarke.
Almost immediately Laois broke and a high ball was sent into the Leitrim goalmouth which came back off the woodwork to Conor Boyle who finished to the net and cut the lead to two points.
Before the half-time whistle Ray Cox shot a point that left Leitrim leading by 1–8 to 1–5 at the break. Laois stepped up another gear on the changeover but it still took them ten minutes to register the first score of the second half when Colm Begley shot over the bar and then a point from Billy Sheehan cut the gap to the minimum of margins. Kevin Conlan gave Leitrim some breathing space when he shot over in the 49th. But Laois began to put Leitrim under serious pressure for the remainder of the game and eventually got on level terms by the 52nd minute after Ross Munnelly and John O’Loughlin hit a point each.
Shortly afterwards Ross Munnelly put Laois ahead for the first time in 34 minutes when he shot over from play and this was a lead that the O’Moore County never subsequently surrendered. A 57th minute Michael John Tierney converted free increased Laois’s advantage but Emlyn Mulligan narrowed the gap to a point when he slotted over his sixth free in 61st minute.
With five minutes to go Ross Munnelly got another point for Laois and then came a Leitrim reply from Kevin Conlan but Michael John Tierney had the last say when he converted a 70th minute free to clinch a hard earned victory for Laois.
LEITRIM: Cathal McCrann; Alan Wynn, Fabian McMorrow, Paddy Maguire; Colm Clarke 0–1, Enda Williams, Daniel Beck; Darren Sweeney, Shane Moran; Paul Brennan, Emlyn Mulligan 0–6 (all frees), Gerry Hickey; Ray Cox 0–2, James Glancy, Kevin Conlan 1–2.
Subs:- Robbie Lowe for Moran (58 mins); Colin Ryan for Brennan (58 mins); Brian McDonald for Conlan (63 mins); Conlan for Glancy (65 mins).
LAOIS: Eoin Culliton; Cahir Healy, Kevin Meaney, Jamie Kavanagh; Padraig McMahon, John O’Loughlin 0–1, Conor Boyle 1–0; Brendan Quigley, Colm Begley 0–2; Ross Munnelly 0–3, Billy Sheehan 0–1, Gary Walsh 0–1; Damien O’Connor 0–1, Padraig Clancy 0–1, Colm Kelly 0–1 (free).
Subs:- Peter O’Leary for Kavanagh (23 mins); Michael John Tierney 0–2 (frees) for O’Connor (31 mins); Darren Strong for McMahon (50 mins); David Conway for Kelly (60 mins); O’Connor for Sheehan (68 mins).
Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare), who was forced to retire injured and was replaced by Martin Higgins (Fermanagh).