Goalkeeper recovers from broken arm to line out for Leitrim

Goalkeeper recovers from broken arm to line out for Leitrim
Leitrim after winning the FBD League in January.

Leitrim head into their Connacht SFC quarter-final against New York at Gaelic Park on Sunday (throw-in 3pm local time/8pm Irish time) with a fully fit squad to choose from.

Leading forward Adrian Croal (concussion), goalkeeper Cathal McCrann (broken arm) and converted midfielder Wayne McKeon are all available for selection after recovering from their respective knocks.

McCrann broke his arm when falling during a league clash with Clare in early February.

19-year-old Leaving Cert student Brendan Flynn had to deputise for him, as regular reserve stopper Philip Farrelly is out with a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Flynn impressed during the rest of the league campaign, but the Leitrim management will be eager for the fit-again McCrann to get some game-time in the Championship opener.

Leitrim joint-manager Barney Breen has underlined the importance of paying New York the respect they deserve, as the visitors look to register a win which would set up a semi-final against Sligo in Carrick-on-Shannon.

"No more than last year with London, we’re going into the unknown. I’ve been there before in 2008 with Des Dolan and we have to prepare for the carnival atmosphere there is going to be there, players haven’t experienced that before," he told the Leitrim Observer.

"From the pitch itself being a synthetic pitch so the pace of the game is going to be different, we have prepared for that.

"The climate is going to be warmer than normal here but it is things like that you have got to adapt to.

"Obviously, only a handful of fellas have been there before, it is new ground for them, the whole euphoria of going over there, dealing with jet-lag, it requires a fair bit of caution.

“When you play Sligo or you play Roscommon, you know exactly what to prepare for. Sunday is different, it is challenging, something we hoping will turn out well.

"We’re going to be installed as favourites but we have to prepare a little bit differently than if it was Mayo or Galway or Sligo and Roscommon."

Some of the Leitrim players do have experience of facing New York stateside - Gary Reynolds, Barry Prior, Emlyn Mulligan and Ronan Gallagher are the survivors from the 2008 panel.

Five years ago at the Bronx venue, the sharpshooting Mulligan scored eleven points - all bar one of them from frees - as Leitrim secured a 0-17 to 0-6 Championship victory over the Exiles.

Commenting on the challenge that the current New York side will pose, Breen added: "New York are changing in that they have a good few homegrown players. They are bringing a different breed of athletes, rather than fellas who are ploughing concrete all day and then head training that night.

"Then there are likes of ex-Monaghan footballer Rory Woods and he is going to be a handful for any man, he has a wealth of experience. Our own Eoin Ward from Carrigallen is playing with them as well."

Breen is quietly confident that Leitrim can build on their Connacht FBD League success from earlier this year, as well as their first ever All-Ireland qualifier win over Wicklow last summer.

"The expectations are a lot higher from ourselves and supporters. We felt this year a realistic target was to get promotion (in the league), we didn’t get it but we weren’t a million miles away.

"Now, we can’t afford to look beyond New York and we know that ourselves. If we get through that, we’ll focus on the Sligo game if that is what it is as we did last year with London.

"We are confident, we know that if we can play to what we potentially can play, we should be able to win it without a shadow of a doubt," he admitted.

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