With any semblance of a contest ended when Down bagged their second goal to lead this first round All-Ireland qualifier by 2-6 to 0-2 after 24 minutes, questions have to be asked about the merit of persisting with a championship structure which subjects counties to scorelines like this.
It wasn’t as bad as the 8-13 they shipped against Armagh last year, but it was bad enough for Leitrim in Newry yesterday and GAA President Liam O’Neill’s interest in reviving some sort of ‘B’ championship would be welcomed by them.
“I think it would be very favourable,” said Hagan.
“The reality is that division four is our All-Ireland.
“Championship football, with the numbers we’re dealing with, it’s always an uphill task and emigration is going to hit us again.
“We lost our full-back Paddy Maguire [after exiting the Connacht championship] and there’s a few other lads thinking of going on their travels.
“But we blooded a few fellas there, and that is the future for Leitrim.”
Their future is for another day, but the writing was on the wall when Conor Laverty rifled in 1-2 from play in the opening 10 minutes.
Leitrim scored the first point of the game through an Emlyn Mulligan free in the second minute, but it was all one-way traffic after that.
Defensive lapses hurt Leitrim, Laverty bundling in a scrappy goal after 10 minutes after Mark Poland’s attempt at a fisted point came back off the post. 14 minutes later, Dan Gordon’s attempt at a point should have been cleared but it was spilled by Leitrim sweeper Kevin Conlon.
Laverty, who caused mayhem all day and finished with 2-4 from play, pounced on the loose ball which passed through several hands before Madine’s low shot found the far corner of the net. Game over.
Down manager James McCartan gave a senior debut to wing-back Ciarán McCartan, called into the panel just a few weeks ago, while Conor Toner also came on for his first taste of championship football.
For a team shorn of defensive options for many years, it must have been a relief to Down supporters to see another new face, Niall Donnelly, start at fullback.
Leitrim didn’t score from play until wing-back Sean McWeeney popped over a nice long-range score in the 31st minute.
In contrast, the entire Down starting full-forward line scored from play in the first half and they led by 2-10 to 0-4 ahead at half-time.
Laverty fisted home Down’s third goal, after 43 minutes and substitute Damien Turley drilled a fourth home from close range after 54 minutes.
Emlyn Mulligan scored one of the best points of the game from out on the far wing in the second half, his only score from play, on a difficult day for his team.
James McCartan also confirmed afterwards that while he was “disappointed” Kilcoo trio Jerome and Ryan Johnston and Paul Devlin went on holidays last week, they will be part of his squad for their second round qualifier.
Scorers for Down: C Laverty (2-4), D O’Hare (0-4, 3fs), N Madine, D Turley (1-0 each), B Coulter, M Poland, L Doyle (2fs) (0-2 each), D Gordon, K McKernan, C Maginn, M Cunningham (45) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Leitrim: E Mulligan (0-5, 4fs), G Reynolds, S McWeeney, R Lowe, N Moore (0-1 each).
DOWN: M Cunningham; D McCartan, N Donnelly, D O’Hagan; C Garvey, C McCartan, K McKernan; D Gordon, P Turley; B Coulter, C Maginn, M Poland; D O’Hare, N Madine, C Laverty
Subs: L Doyle for O’Hare (41), C Toner for Turley (44), E McCartan for Madine (48), D Turley (1-0) for Coulter (51), O Costello for D McCartan (51), A Carr for Garvey (56)
LEITRIM: P Farrelly; A Wynne, D Wrynn, B McWeeney; B Prior, G Reynolds, S McWeeney; D Sweeney, D Moran; G Hickey, E Mulligan, A McLoughlin; K Conlon, R Lowe, R Cox.
Subs: F Clancy for McLoughlin (ht), M McWeeney for Moran (48), G Reynolds for Wrynn (51), N Moore for Lowe (58), C Clinton for Cox (59), A Hickey for G Hickey (66).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).