Leitrim used a Lonan Maguire goal with 10 minutes left to finally put away the stubborn challenge that Donegal posed in this senior football match.
The sides were level on three occasions in the first half before Leitrim had a slim lead at the break. It took Maguire’s rebound on an Adrian O’Connor shot to kill off the challenge.
The first half was a close contest with Leitrim going in to the break ahead, 1-5 to 1-3. The sides were all square 10 minutes in before Enda Gaffney had the Donegal goal when he was set up by good play from the Irish American connection of Liam Deane and CJ Molloy.
In a defensive struggle Kevin Meaney and Mike Creegan were excellent at the back for Leitrim, while Keith Scally was excellent as a stopper and ball carrier at the other end. Paul McGinley was also doing a fantastic job on Ryan McComiskey.
One of the highlights of the contest was the battle between O’Connor and Sean Kinahane in the middle of the park, with O’Connor having his best game of the year with his high fielding and play.
Rory Woods started to show his class also as he capitalized on a defensive mistake to fire to the net after Dave Harvey was involved also. Woods also had an excellent point to follow, and his skill was starting to be a major problem for Donegal.
In a slow building second half, it was all of seven minutes in before Woods had the first score. It came for Leitrim and moved the lead to three.
The final pass at each end was off the mark, and it was giving the defender the opportunity to recover ball or get on to the man. Molloy had Donegal’s first, a towering score from the left side, and both sides followed with points from easy frees to move the game into the final quarter with Leitrim still holding a 1-7 to 1-5 lead.
Donegal got within one with a Gaffney free, made easier after Leitrim kept talking about the decision. The side then had a glorious chance at goal when the defense made the cardinal sin of passing the ball foolishly around the box. Gaffney hit the post with their first opportunity before it flew dangerously wide.
It was their last hurrah, however, as it was all Leitrim in the final 10 minutes. It began with their second goal. McComiskey shot a pass into O’Connor, who drove a thunderbolt at goal. Brian Cuilinan did well to parry it, but Maguire buried the rebound in the onion bag.
They added four further points, with Maguire again in on the act, and withstood a couple of goal mouth incidents, one in particular when Power cleared off the goal line.
Leitrim are building momentum, and their panel is only getting stronger each week. Kevin Meaney was again dominant, and if he is let out the field he is even better. Mike McGowan and Aiden Power (second half) also had major contributions at the back. Adrian O’Connor had his best game of the year, with Cian Maher an able side kick.
Up front Rory Woods was again the out and out danger man. He’s the cleanest kicker of a ball in New York -- when given space watch out. Dave Harvey and Ryan McComiskey also had positive showings.
For Donegal, Brian Cuilinan could not be faulted on a great day for goalies. He made a couple of tremendous stops. Paul McGinley also had a very good hour against a county player. Sean Kinahane battled hard, while Mickey Annett, PJ Flanagan and Enda Gaffney were the best of the forwards. Conor Lynam was a huge loss in this one.
Leitrim: 1 Pa Ryan, 2 Mike Creegan, 3 Kevin Meaney, 4 Lonan McGuire (1-1), 5 Aiden Power, 6 Mike McGowan, 7 Danny Sullivan, 8 Adrian O’Connor, 9 Cian Maher, 10 Rory Redican, 11 Eoghan Carew, 12 Ray O’Connor (0-1), 13 Paul McComiskey (0-1), 14 Rory Woods (1-7), 15 Dave Harvey. Subs: Brian O’Connor (0-1).
Donegal: 1 Brian Cuilinan, 2 Steven Lynch, 3 Donnacha O’Dwyer, 4 Paul McGinley, 5 Kieran Scally (0-1), 6 Shane Boyle, 7 Mike Molloy, 8 Sean Manley, 9 Sean Kinahane (0-2), 10 Steven Duffy, 11 PJ Flanagan, 12 Mickey Annett (0-1), 13 Liam Deane, 14 CJ Molloy (0-1), 15 Enda Gaffney (1-4). Subs: Paraic McDaid.
Another difficult assignment getting team sheets. Thanks to Sean Redican and Frankie Dwyer for their help.
Man of the match: Rory Woods (Leitrim).
Referee: John Fitzpatrick.
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