Defender Plunkett unlikely Leitrim hero in victory over New York

Noel Plunkett of Leitrim celebrates his side's victory over New York in their Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match at Gaelic Park in New York yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

By John Fallon

Defender Noel Plunkett told a Leitrim team meeting at the weekend that they needed to show composure against New York and always make sure they got the ball to a key forward rather than shooting wildly for scores — but then he popped up and landed the decisive score in the in the dying seconds having never kicked a winning score in his life!

Plunkett, who celebrated his 25th birthday in New York on Friday, was the unlikely hero for Leitrim when his kick in stoppage time at the end of the second period of extra-time secured a 0-19 to 1-15 in a dramatic Connacht SFC clash at Gaelic Park in the Bronx.

The Aughawillian man kicked the winning score after Shane Quinn had tied the sides as Leitrim came from three points down in the closing five minutes to break New York’s hearts.

“No, I have never done anything like that before. I don’t think I eveR kicked a score that one a match," he said.

“We need the score and it was do or die and the opportunity came and I just took it and hoped for the best. I was looking at went over the bar and that's it.”

Selector and former Leitrim, Mayo and Galway manager John O’Mahony revealed afterwards that Plunkett had said in a team meeting how players needed to be composed and not do crazy things and that they needed to find the recognized forwards rather than going for wild scores.

“And then he comes along and kicks the winner when none of us expected it. Fair play to him for having a go,” said O’Mahony.

Plunkett, who younger brother Mark was in midfield, played down his hero role and said he was just in the right place at the right time.

"I didn't know it went over but I just looked around and heard the crowd shouting and that was it."

Tony Donnelly of New York in action against Noel Plunkett of Leitrim during their Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match at Gaelic Park in New York yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

“That was a very good New York team and at the end of the day we worked hard and that group of players out there never give in full stop we always believe in each other and the management believed in us.

“It was hard work and we never give in and at the end of the day that's all that counts.

"We got over this game now so our minds will be totally focused on the next two weeks now and hopefully we can bring a good performance against Roscommon again at Park Sean

“I knew this team would never lie down, that's what we're made of,” he added.

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