‘Great to win but league is our focus’

Leitrim 2-05 Roscommon 1-07

‘Great to win but league is our focus’

It is rare to see a captain accepting a cup and saying the league is what matters, but there could be no denying this joust between neighbours, who are due to meet in the Connacht championship in 16 weeks’ time, was merely a warm-up for the start of the league.

Leitrim, who yesterday retained a title for the first time in their history having claimed their maiden FBD League crown 12 months ago, want to bring that success into their promotion drive from Division 4 this time.

No surprise then that captain Emlyn Mulligan, the first Leitrim man to collect two cups for the county, quickly switched his focus to next Sunday’s visit of Antrim to Páirc Sean MacDiarmada.

“We approached every game with the right mentality and the boys worked hard all winter but it’s another competitive game on our route to get promoted out of Division 4,” he said.

“But I would swap this win for two points against Antrim next weekend. That’s where our priorities lie. It’s great to win the FBD again but the league is where the focus is.”

Roscommon manager John Evans knows they have their work cut out to get out of Division 3 and the lack of bite up front and the inability to get sufficient ball into Cathal Cregg was worrying.

Senan Kilbride saw a lot of ball but was off the boil yesterday, while the half-forward line just didn’t make the necessary impact, although the introduction of Michael Finneran improved matters around the middle of the field.

“Well we said our goal is the Allianz League and if you don’t get an eye-opener today you never will. We just weren’t in the game and Leitrim bossed us.

“I think the first goal was a big lift for Leitrim. The second goal put them five points up. The scoreline doesn’t do justice to Leitrim. We hit them for a goal and a point towards the end but all credit to Roscommon they stayed battling but we started the fight too late, we started the battle too late,” said Evans.

He will bring his side on another short border expedition on Sunday when they travel to play neighbours Longford in Pearse Park and Evans will want a big improvement on this performance.

“We went for options in the first half that just weren’t on,” as his side never looked like lifting their first FBD League title since 1999, with all three first half scores coming from defenders.

They were in trouble trailing 1-3 to 0-3 at the break despite playing with the wind, Aaron Hickey rocking them with a sixth-minute goal. Mulligan put Ray Cox through only for goalkeeper Darren O’Malley to save brilliantly, but he could do nothing about the rebound.

Points from the impressive Murtagh brothers, Ciaran and Diarmuid, who have come through to senior in this FBD campaign, gave the Rossies hope in the third quarter but John Mulligan sealed the deal with a goal on his debut after the unrelated Emlyn Mulligan and Tomas Beirne set him up.

Niall Daly got a late goal to set up an exciting finish but Leitrim deservedly held out.

Scorers for Leitirm: A Hickey and J Mulligan (1-0 each), W McKeon (0-2), E Mulligan (f), F Clancy and R Cox (0-1 each).

Scorers for Roscommon: N Daly (1-1), D Murtagh (0-2), N Carty, C Daly, C Cregg (f) and C Murtagh (0-1 each).

LEITRIM: C McCrann; B Prior, P Maguire, D Wrynn; W McKeon, P Brennan, G Reynolds; A Hickey, D Moran; K Conlan, R Lowe, F Clancy; E Mulligan, T Beirne, R Cox.

Subs: D Beck for Brennan (bc, 23), J Glancy for Lowe (36), G Hickey for Moran (44), J Mulligan for Cox (51), E Mahon for Hickey (59).

ROSCOMMON: D O’Malley; N Collins, N Carty, R Stack; S McDermott, N Daly, C Daly; C Shine, K Higgins; C Devaney, C Burns, M Nally; S Kilbride, C Cregg, C Murtagh.

Subs: M Finneran for Burns (23), D Keane for Devaney (30), D Murtagh for Kilbride (30), D O’Gara for Nally (46), E Smith for Higgins (57).

Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).

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