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Leitrim knocked from their perch

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mike Fitzpatrick

Leitrim’s senior footballers completed their season in a similar way to how they had started it: with an unconvincing performance while being heavily defeated by an Ulster opponent.

Whereas Leitrim was soundly beaten by Cavan on opening day, the team managed to pick itself up and emerge triumphant in a number of games following that particular embarrassment.

Healthy performances followed over Sligo, Cork and Monaghan which gave the Gaelic Park faithful a glimpse of how Leitrim could perform on their day.

Against Donegal on Sunday in the championship semifinal however, they were simply outclassed. Despite the presence of intercounty stars such as Vinnie Murphy, Pat Fallon and Peter Lambert, Leitrim were never really in a position to win this tie during the 70 minutes.

Donegal’s massive 15-point victory was thoroughly deserved, and in edging into the final, where they will be heavy favorites versus Kerry, gave possibly their most convincing display of the season.

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Kieran Keaveney opened the scoring with a low drive to the left of Joe Madden’s goal, followed by over-the-bar efforts from Gary Dowd, and two from import Brendan Devaney, the Ulstermen began to cruise into a healthy lead.

Stephen Cassidy grabbed another goal when latching onto Dowd’s cross shot, powering the ball home, and consecutive points from Martin Coll, Kildare man Anthony Rainbow, two more from Devaney, a free from Edmund Cleary and another from Dowd, made Leitrim’s solitary Peter Lambert strike look very lonely indeed.

Gary Dowd had a goalbound shot well saved by Leitrim goalie Joe Madden, and Leitrim’s Murphy missed a penalty when it rebounded off the bar back into play. A Pat Fallon point late in the second half meant very little for Leitrim as, by this stage, Devaney and Cassidy had edged Donegal into a 15-point lead.

Leitrim upped their performance in the second half, with Alan McFadden gaining more control of the ball and escaping from the Donegal backline occasionally, though his lone contribution of one point was far below his usual tally, one which has seen him rise in the scoring ranks to second place in New York.

Frank Brady’s Leitrim men fought back a little and performed a little better in the second half, registering four consecutive scores from Lambert, and another from Murphy.

Eunan Doherty’s penalty save from Lambert rubbed a little salt into the Leitrim wounds and, in the last quarter of the game, a Donegal midfielder was carried off with a nasty looking injury.

It’s a Donegal versus Kerry final next week, a game which based on the performances of both teams here today, will be an absolute stormer. Leitrim, for so long the best team around, have finally been knocked from their perch by perhaps their biggest rivals.

Donegal live to fight another day, and who will bet against them?

Leitrim: Joe Madden, Malachy McHugh, Kieran Walsh, John McGuinness, Jim Donaghue, Mike Brosnan, Neville Dunne, John Meehan, Kieran Treanor, John Donaghue, Alan McFadden (0-1), Pat Fallon (0-1), Sean Jones, Vinnie Murphy, Peter Lambert (0-5). Subs: Mike Joe Hennessy, Mike Murphy

Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Damian Meehan, Owen Cummins, Keith Murray, Donal Breslin, Pierce Coyle, Mark McClafferty, Martin Coll (0-1), Dave McSweeney, Gary Dowd (0-5), Mickey Moran, Kieran Keaveney (1-0), Anthony Rainbow (0-2), Brendan Devaney (0-6), Stephen Cassidy (1-1). Subs: Edmund Cleary (0-1), Gerry Kelly (0-1), Tadhg Donovan, Raymie Kane.

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