By Peter Nolan
When the day’s featured match rolled around on Sunday, one couldn’t help but think, “What a difference a week makes.” Just one week earlier, New York and Sligo had been paraded around the Gaelic Park pitch by the Transit Pride Fife and Drum Band before a crowd of over 4,000. This week, there was no band and the crowd was closer to 400.
Leitrim lost a pre-match coin toss and were forced to wear a set of Derry jerseys while Stamford kept their own green. It was a bit confusing for onlookers, but the game got under way and Tommy Gee quickly put Leitrim in front.
Gee, operating at full forward, notched a Leitrim point and Aiden Power wasted little time adding a goal to the Leitrim scoreline. That left Stamford a deep hole to climb out of, but at least they had plenty of time to do it.
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Stamford pulled back points via Stephen Owens and Pauric Crevan. Crevan showed himself to be a skillful player as well as a fine free taker.
Stamford had another hill to climb in the form of a giant Leitrim midfield. New York county man Ken O’Connor, at 6-foot-4, was partnered by Larry Keenan, who may actually be the taller of the pair. Big Ken and Big Larry present quite a strategic problem for opposing teams, although play the wings might be a thought.
Alan McFadden, the Leitrim number 11, may have been the best pure football at the park on Sunday. McFadden ran off three straight Leitrim points, offset only by a Crevan free for Stamford. McFadden topped off that display by placing Andy O’Connor for a goal after a great Lietrim passing move.
O’Connor’s goal put Leitrim in a commanding position, 2-6 to 0-4. Stamford chipped two points off the deficit but still faced a steep climb, trailing 2-6 to 0-6 at halftime.
Tommy Gee opened what would prove to be a productive second half with a point from John Donaghue’s pass. Donaghue’s big brother, Jim, was having the proverbial blinder from his corner back slot. The veteran handled his defensive responsibility with a tremendous amount of cool and pressed forward constantly, figuring in several Leitrim scoring moves. James Lynch goaled for Stamford, but they still trailed 2-12 to 1-7 and this Leitrim outfit were not to be caught.
It is early yet, but Leitrim have the look of a serious contender. Solid defense, and enormous and effective midfield, plus plenty of class up front. Plus Cookie Meehan coming back from injury and subs the caliber of Danny O’Sullivan make Leitrim a dangerous package.
Man of the match: Jim Donaghue.
Leitrim: Darragh Downey, John Walshe, Jim Donaghue, Pa Muphy, Pauric Flynn, John Donoghue, Larry Keanan, Ken O’Connor (0-1), Liam Coyle, Alan McFadden (0-5), Derrick McMahon (0-1), Andy O’Connor (1-0), Tom Gee (0-7), Aiden Power (1-0). Sub: Danny O’Sullivan.
Stamford: Paddy Donaghue, Martin McDern, Kevin Newell, Darian Doherty, Justin O’Halloran, Rich Purcell, Phil Wickham, Kieth Hennessey, Jason Killeen, Stephen Owens (0-1), Eric McDonald, James Lynch (1-0), Pauric Crevan (0-7), John O’Mahoney, Mike Martin.