By Peter Nolan
Leitrim 2-13, Rangers 2-12
Leitrim broke Rangers’ hearts with a second half comeback, culminating in a magnificent goal from Alan McFadden that gave Leitrim a 2-13 to 2-12 win in this Senior A football match Sunday at Gaelic Park.
Nothing the Rangers have done so far this season gave any indication that they were capable of this type of performance. However, with eight new starters in their lineup, little was familiar about Dennis Twomey’s squad other than their trademark blue jerseys.
Leitrim have been the division’s most impressive team, and a rout looked likely before the new-look Rangers were unveiled. The favorites got on the board first as Derek McMahon pointed from a nice McFadden feed.
Mick O’Keefe sandwiched two Rangers points around an outstanding Leitrim point from Tommy Gee. With the sides level, Rangers got a break when Liam Og Oheineachain’s long ball eluded Leitrim keeper Mike McGinley and dropped under the crossbar for a Rangers’ goal.
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That bit of good fortune seemed to lift Rangers and they stretched their lead to 1-4 to 0-2 on points from O’Keefe and Ruari Kelleher. Leitrim didn’t seem to have their usual appetite for this game and their vaunted midfield of Ken O’Connor and Larry Keenan were having trouble getting untracked against Rangers’ less celebrated pair of Rory Hussey and Mike Bishop. Gee and O’Keefe traded points and Andy O’Connor pointed for Leitrim as the underdogs went to the interval four point to the good, 1-5 to 0-4.
Liam Og Oheineachain opened the second half with a Ranger point, and fellow Dubliner Kevin O’Carruill soon tacked on another. Rangers strung together passes from Bishop, O’Carruill and O’Keefe and when Dave Phelan finished the move with a goal, Rangers were in command, 2-7 to 0-4, a seemingly insurmountable 9-point bulge.
Leitrim were dead, but no one told them. Aiden Power got on the end of a long McFadden free and found a crease in the Ranger defense to fire home a goal. The deficit was down to 0-6 and after two more points from McFadden, it was suddenly a manageable 0-4. Rangers were working hard, but it was all one-way traffic. Larry Keenan and Mike Bishop got involved and were sent to the line for their trouble, reducing each side to 14 players.
Liam Coyle, Andy O’Connor and Tommy Gee all pointed for Leitrim and there was only a point between the sides. Rangers got a lift when keeper John Williams brought off an absolute gem of a save on Gee to preserve Rangers’ slim lead. But not for long.
Liam Coyle’s point drew Leitrim level with 10 minutes left and everything to play for. O’Carruill ended the Rangers’ drought with an equalizing point. McFadden then lifted the crowd with a tremendous point after racing past several defenders. O’Keefe pointed twice and Dave Phelan pointed after a good save from McGinley in the Leitrim net. Then McFadden put his stamp on this match.
The Cloughaneely, Co. Donegal, weekender took off on a scintillating run through the Ranger defense, bouncing off tackles and booting a brilliant point to close the gap to 2-11 to 1-12. An amazing score, but then he topped it. Gliding through the defense, McFadden held the ball, and he held it. Then, when he seemed certain to be contained, he blasted a 25-yard rocket to the back of the net, 2-12 to 2-11, Leitrim. Pa Murphy added another Leitrim point before Og Oheineachai pointed for Rangers at the buzzer to end a thriller.
Man of the Match: Alan McFadden.
Leitrim: Mike McGinley, Keith Murray, John Walsh, Donny Downey, Danny O’Sullivan, Jim Donoghue, Pa Murphy (0-1), Ken O’Connor, Larry Keenan, Derek McMahon (0-1), Alan McFadden (1-4), Liam Coyle (0-2), Andy O’Connor (0-2), Tommy Gee (0-3), Aiden Power (1-0).
Rangers: John Williams, Kevin Dillon, Conor O’Connor, Finton O’Shea, Tomas Maher, Dermor O’Hanney, Dermot Maher, Rory Hussey, Mike Bishop, Mike Sheridan, Ruari Kelleher (0-1), Liam Og Oheineachain (1-2), Kevin O’Carruill (0-2), Dave Phelan (1-1), Mick O’Keefe (0-6).