They have now clashed 17 times in the championship in Carrick-on-Shannon, and, aside from a Leitrim success in 1927, which was successfully appealed, and a couple of draws, Roscommon have always made their raids across the bridge, over the Shannon, count.
The Rossies travelled in big numbers yesterday, somewhat in trepidation after the horrors of New York, but the Leitrim resistance never got going and, by the end, they were down to 12 men on a dismal day for the county.
It wasn’t a dirty game, but frustration took it’s toll, not that Leitrim manager, Shane Ward, was excusing his players, after two were sent off with red cards and two more, including captain, Gary Reynolds, had picked up black cards.
“It certainly wasn’t a Shane Ward performance. I am disappointed with the lads; I am disappointed with the way they went about their business. We started really well, and settled really well, but, after that, we just hit the self-destruct button, and be under no illusion. A lot of things that went wrong out there were down to the players.
“They just totally played hard ball with Roscommon and we just needed to play our own ball. And it was a bit disappointing, from that perspective, because they were well-prepared, well-tutored, and they just had to go and execute,” said Ward.
His side were facing an uphill battle by half-time, when they trailed 1-11 to 0-5, having played against the breeze. An early Donal Wrynn point suggested this might be a good day for Leitrim, but Roscommon responded with five in quick succession, from Diarmuid Murtagh (2), Cathal Cregg, Niall Daly, and Donie Shine, and they never really looked back, after that.
Emlyn Mulligan, back in the championship after taking a year out to travel, hit back for Leitrim, and their best forward, Kevin Conlan, also found the range, but Fintan Cregg and Ciaran Murtagh combined to send the impressive Conor Devaney through for a goal, after 26 minutes.
Leitrim had replaced half of their defence by the interval, having lost corner-back, Matthew Murphy, to injury, and Reynolds to a black card, in addition to having substituted wing-back, Ronan Gallagher. Leitrim started the second-half, well with Mulligan and Adrian Croal hitting the target, but Roscommon responded with another string of points.
The game was wrapped up by the time Darren Sweeney got a straight red, after 54 minutes. Then, Croal got a black, with all six subs used, while, in the closing stages, Killian McGriskin also got his marching orders.
Roscommon’s joint managers, Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay, spectators last summer when Sligo derailed the best-laid plans of John Evans’ Rossies, know they will have to dig deeper to rediscover the form that made them the team of the league. And O’Donnell wasn’t long in making it clear that they need to step it up for the June 12 clash with Sligo, which, as he remarked himself, will go ahead at Hyde Park, unless the weather takes a serious turn for the worse.
“We were happy enough with the first-half; second-half was a little bit flat. Leitrim were unlucky; they had two men sent off. I don’t think the scoreline did them justice,” said O’Donnell. “Any time you score 1-21, you have to be happy. There are lots of areas to work on and that’s great. If you had the exact performance, it would be difficult to go forward. The lads should have plenty of incentive, now.
“They’re playing Sligo, who turned them over last year. Sligo going in under the radar. They finished the league quite strongly and that’s what they did last year. It’ll be a huge task. We have a lot of players, going into a Connacht semi-final, who have never played in the Connacht final. That’s the experience Sligo have,” added O’Donnell.
C Devaney 1-1, F Cregg 0-4 (0-1f), D Shine 0-3, C Murtagh 0-3 (0-1f), D Murtagh 0-2, C Cregg 0-2, N Daly 0-2, R Daly 0-2 (0-1f), C McHugh 0-1 (0-1f), C Shine 0-1.
K Conlan 0-3, E Mulligan 0-3 (0-1f), R Kennedy 0-1 (0-1f), D Wrynn 0-1, N O’Donnell 0-1, A Croal 0-1, K McHugh 0-1.
G Claffey; N McInerney, N Collins, S McDermott; J McManus, S Purcell, D Murray; N Daly, J McDermott; F Cregg, C Murtagh, C Devaney; D Murtagh, C Cregg, D Shine.
S Kilbride for D Murtagh (50), R Daly for McDermott (55), C McHugh for Shine (62), S Mullooly for J McManus (63), D Keenan for Purcell (67), C Shine for C Cregg (67).
B Flynn; M Murphy, P Maguire, M McWeeney; S McWeeney, G Reynolds, R Gallagher; D Wrynn, S Moran; J Rooney, E Mulligan, K Conlan; N O’Donnell, R Kennedy, A Croal.
K McHugh for Murphy (16), K McGriskin for Gallagher (32), B Prior for Reynolds (36, black), D Sweeney for S McWeeney (35), C Gaffney for O’Donnell (35), N Woods for Kennedy (63).
Barry Cassidy (Derry).