By Mike Fitzpatrick
Leitrim displayed one of their more convincing performances of the year at Gaelic Park on Sunday while disposing of Div. 2 runners-up Sligo.
The wise old sages of the Park had dismissed Frank Brady’s men earlier in the year following some below par games but, as has been their habit, the self styled "team of the decade" have come good at a vital stage of the season.
Provided with an impressive blend of seasoned veterans like Mike Joe Hennessy, Mike Brosnan and Sean Jones, younger stalwarts like Neville Dunne, the dependable John Meehan and a free-scoring forward in Alan McFadden, Leitrim seem to have the right mix to go the distance this season. To defeat a determined young side such as Sligo by 12 points is no mean achievement and the upcoming semi-final versus arch rivals Donegal should not be missed.
Leading by a score of 10 points to three at half time, Leitrim looked to be coasting toward a comfortable victory. Alan McFadden had knocked a number of efforts over the bar and, along with sanctioned player Peter Lambert, looked to have Sligo on the rails.
Bosco Walsh’s men, however, are not a side to fall back when the chips are down and, after the interval, immediately shot back with efforts from Shane Carney, Steven Healy and a fine goal from Sean Davey. Indeed, but for some off target shooting by the Sligo forward line early in the second period where we witnessed four consecutive efforts either bouncing off the post or sailing wide, Sligo could have been right back in the tie.
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Coming into a quarter final championship game versus the holders was never going to be an easy assignment for Sligo. Talented forwards such as Steven Healy, New York all-star Enda Henry and Eddie McCormack were heavily marked throughout the game by the Leitrim backline, and rarely did they have the opportunity to chip away at their rival’s lead.
Sligo have done enough this season to up their level for next year and prove that they have what it takes to make an impact on Division One, so, regardless of how this game finished, they will certainly be content that they will not be restricted to performing within the confines of Van Cortlandt Park next year.
Leitrim still have it all to do. The tie versus the supremely confident Donegal side in a few weeks should not be missed.
Leitrim: Joe Madden, Malachy McHugh, Mike Brosnan, John McGuinness, Jim Donaghue, Neville Dunne, Mike Joe Hennessy, John Meehan, Kieran Treanor, John Donoghue (0-1), Alan McFadden (0-8), Mike Murphy, Peter Lambert (1-2), Sean Jones (0-2), Shane Ward (0-3),. Subs: Alan Travers, Richie Maher (0-1).
Sligo: Dermot Fleming, Mark Shanahan, Mike Gilligan, John McKenzie, John Cribben, Shane Carney (0-1), Donal Cassidy, Paul McCormack (0-1), Steven Healy (0-1), Sean Davey (1-2), Noel Fitzgerald, Paul Bruin, Ronnie Cosgrove. Subs: Declan Henry, Mark Doyle.