By John Fallon in New York
New York 1-15 Leitrim 0-19 (after extra time): New York’s wait for a first Connacht championship win continues as Leitrim kicked the last four points and Noel Plunkett landed the winner deep into the second period of extra-time at Gaelic Park.
With Jamie Clarke and Kevin O’Grady to the fore New York looked set to make history, only for Shane Quinn to send the game into extra-time with a late leveller. New York surged again and pulled three clear with seven minutes to go but Benny Guckian’s side battled bravely and fired the last four points to take a memorable win.
In the baking heat of New York Leitrim would have been thrilled to get on the scoreboard first when Keith Beirne landed the first of four first-half points in the second minute, but the welcoming mat was quickly pulled from under their feet as New York ran riot for the next eight minutes.
New York born Shane Hogan rattled a goal in the fourth minute following some great build-up play from Neil Collins and David Freeman, which stunned Leitrim, and after his midfield partner David Culhane found the target worse was to come for Leitrim.
Danger man Jamie Clarke was tracked all round Gaelic Park by Paddy Maguire, but he lost his marker in the sixth and ninth minutes to point from play, while the Armagh native slotted a free after ten minutes to give New York a comfortable 1-4 to 0-1 lead.
Leitrim were in disarray at that point and looked shellshocked, but Benny Guckian reshuffled his side and switched Emlyn Mulligan into full-forward, and immediately the Melvin Gales man pointed, which calmed Leitrim.
Another Beirne point put four between the sides, while the introduction of Dean McGovern brought a real zip to Leitrim’s play, and he scored the final point in an excellent run, that saw them hit eight of nine points.
Tony Donnelly was the only New Yorker to find the posts in that spell, but one point after the tenth minute was a poor return from New York considering the start they had.
Leitrim were no doubt thrilled to lead 0-9 to 1-5 at the interval, especially considering Clarke had a point disallowed in added-time, but the American side hit the first three points of the second half to take a 1-8 to 0-9 lead.
Ryan O’Rourke got Leitrim back on track with a good score, before Beirne landed a terrific point off his left side to level the game in the 44thminute. The lead was soon Leitrim’s when Beirne slotted a free after a foul on Mulligan ten minutes into the half.
With the game in the melting pot both managers emptied their benches and ten fractured minutes followed, but the home side settled when Clarke pointed a free before Collins and O’Grady pointed to give them a two-point lead.
Leitrim looked like being the first Connacht team to lose in New York, but Beirne and Mark Plunkett levelled the game with a minute to go, before Shane Quinn put them one point up, only for Daniel McKenna to sent the game to extra-time.
Clarke had been quiet for most of the second-half but in the final minute of the first added period he exploded into life. Firstly he laid on a point for O’Grady, before he curled over a score from the corner flag to put New York two points clear at the interval.
That lead was three points when O’Grady landed his third of the game with seven minutes to go as Gaelic Park threatened to explode with excitement, but it was the Leitrim supporters that roared last.
Aiden Flynn started the ball rolling with four minutes remaining, before Darragh Rooney put a point between the sides. As he did near full-time Quinn kicked the leveller, but this time there was to be a winner and Noel Plunkett hit a memorable score to save Leitrim at the death.
It was cruel.
Scorers for Leitrim: K Beirne 0-7 (2’45, 3f), E Mulligan 0-3, S Quinn 0-2, R O’Rourke 0-2, D McGovern 0-1, M Plunkett 0-1, A Flynn 0-1, D Rooney 0-1, N Plunkett 0-1
Scorers for New York: J Clarke 0-5 (2f), S Hogan 1-0, T Donnelly 0-3 (2f), K O’Grady 0-3, D Culhane 0-1, L Kelly 0-1, N Collins 0-1, D McKenna 0-1 (1f).
Leitrim: D McKiernan; P Maguire, M McWeeney, O Madden; J Rooney, D Wrynn, S Quinn; M Plunkett, D Flynn; J Heslin, E Mulligan, R O’Rourke; D Rooney, K Beirne, B Gallagher.
Subs for Leitrim: D McGovern for Flynn 21; R Kennedy for Heslin 53; C Gaffney for Rooney 56; N Plunkett for Donal Wrynn 71; D Rooney for Beirne 82; A Flynn for Rooney 83 BC
New York: V Cadden; N Collins, D Ward, M Creegan; E Williams, T Cunniffe, M Queenan; D Culhane, S Hogan; T Donnelly, J Clarke, L Kelly; K O’Grady, D McDonagh, D Freeman.
Subs for New York: D McKenna for Freeman 32; J Collins for Kelly 48; P Boyle for Queenan 53; A Cunningham for Donnelly 56; K Scally for J Collins 61; JJ Matthews for Cunningham 69 BC; L Kelly for Culhane 82; D McDonagh for Hogan 88.
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)