Result: Leitrim 2-15 Monaghan 1-5
Leitrim battled hard to get the bugs out in a low scoring first half before they finally brushed the cobwebs off and moseyed to an easy victory over new arrivals Monaghan.
With a number of former inter county players in their starting 15, it was only a matter of time before things started to click. When they did they overran an over-matched opponent for the 13-point win.
In a first half that was littered with mistakes by both sides, it amounted to who did the least amount. Leitrim went in at the half ahead by the minimum 0-6 to 1-2, but it was after they used three different free takers and survived a couple of scares at the rear.
Nicky Joyce eventually took over the reins and he fired over the final three scores of the half from frees and play. In fact two of his points in the first half were exquisite in their skill level as they came from the most awkward of angles way on the right side of the field on the stand side.
Monaghan’s one saving grace was a goal they conjured from a long range free in the 18th minute. Kevin Connolly’s shot dropped to the square and Ruairi Molloy punched to the net in a crowd.
The ease in which the victory came in the second half was surprising in the way that the Monaghan resistance fell away, and quickly. Leitrim had a brace to open the half from Dan Doona and Keith Quinn, the second a free before James Connolly replied with a free after Paraic Graham was fouled.
Leitrim then took over and pushed on with a burst of 1-3 with the goal a bullet from Quinn when Monaghan surrendered possession and the center forward raced in the opposite direction before dispatching to the net with venom.
Brian Connor was now starting to dominate in the middle, especially in open play, while Quinn was proving a handful and was being left open far too often.
Sean Kelly had a point for the losers with a quarter left, but again Leitrim reacted positively. Cian Maher had a shot that Alan Hearty did well to parry out for a 50; alas for the keeper Eoghan Carew fired it over.
A screaming goal from Andy Gray followed by a point extended the advantage and the contest was over. Both sides had final points with Joyce snatching his sixth of the day with time running out.
For the winners, Ciaran Hughes got stronger as the day went on. He had a couple of fouls in the early going that were punished but he settled after.
Mike Creegan had a very strong hour with his timely tackles and interceptions, while Ronan O’Flaherty is a strong running number 6. After early tussles, they won the middle with Connor the pick of the four.
Keith Quinn had a tremendous second half, while Nicky Joyce had the quietest half dozen points of his career. He promises lots in the days ahead. Adrian Wynne had very good innings in his debut at this level. His speed was a highlight.
For Monaghan, Alan Hearty could not be faulted and Paul Lambe battled throughout. Sean Kelly and Caoimhin O’Callaghan could also be commended for their effort. The forward line never got going, however, and perhaps Pauric Graham should have been used further out the field because he was starved of supply inside.
Monaghan: 1 Alan Hearty, 2 Michael McBrian, 3 Mikey O’Regan, 4 Paul Lambe, 5 Dave Harvey, 6 Paul Farren, 7 Ross Connolly, 8 Sean Kelly (0-1), 9 Kevin Connolly (0-2), 10 Caoimhin O’Callaghan, 11 James Connolly (0-2), 12 Liam Deane, 13 Ruairi Molloy (1-0), 14 Bonnie Duffy, 15 Pauric Graham. Subs: Eugene McPhillips, Shane McKenna.
Leitrim: 1 Pa Ryan, 2 Peter Fahey, 3 Ciaran Hughes, 4 Mike Creegan, 5 Lonan Maguire, 6 Ronan O’Flaherty, 7 Cian Maher, 8 Paddy Kelly (0-1), 9 Brian Connor (0-1), 10 Brian Fahey, 11 Keith Quinn (1-2), 12 Eoghan Carew (0-1), 13 Nicky Joyce (0-6), 14 Dan Doona (0-2), 15 Conor McHugh. Subs: Adrian Wynne (0-1), Andy Gray (1-1), Aiden Tanzey.
Man of the match: Keith Quinn (Leitrim).
Referee: Martin O’Connor.