Monaghan cruised along in fourth gear and still claimed a 13-point win at their ease to set up a tussle with either Roscommon, Laois or Cork in the final round of qualifiers. Add that to their record 27-point win over another Division 4 outfit, Waterford, last week and it’s clear Malachy O’Rourke’s side mean business.
It has been a tough summer for the 2015 Ulster champions. The soaring highs of an Ulster championship victory against Tyrone were forgotten in defeat to Fermanagh in the last four, but it could yet be a long summer – providing they carry this form into next weekend.
O’Rourke says his side is ready to take on anyone after this impressive win at Páirc Sean Mac Diarmada and if they can find a consistent 70 minutes against an in-form team they are the back-door qualifiers to be avoided. At the back they were loose early on, but recovered well, while 11 wides and 20 scores displayed an erratic streak up front.
Conor McCarthy scored the late goal for his side, while he also led the line in the first half, but had Leitrim made the most of the goal chances that came their way they might have challenged their visitors a bit more in the second period. O’Rourke is just happy to be still in the fight.
“All the three defeated provincial finalists are looking for a rebound. They would probably have been disappointed to lose their final. The big thing, we found ourselves, at least they have three weeks to get over that loss.” said O’Rourke.
“They will really be itching to get back out and put in a big performance to show that was a once off. We will just take whoever we get. It is going to be a real tough game. We just have to concentrate on our own performance.
“We know that if we are not better than we were today we are not going to get through it. That’s going to be our sole focus over the next week.”
Leitrim have still never reached Round 4 of the qualifiers and it will be difficult for them to build on the progress of 2018. Wins over New York and Louth signed off the season on a high, but it is unclear if Benny Guckian will seek a third year in charge of the side.
“You would have to say it’s progress,” said Guckian. “The one against Louth was very positive, it’s disappointing with the scoreline today and I don’t think it’s a true reflection of how the lads played.
“There’s definitely lots to build on, so many players have started wearing the Leitrim jersey and have accounted themselves very well so you hope that they stick with it. That’s the most important thing at this stage.”
For so long it has been Emlyn Mulligan’s responsibility to be Leitrim’s score-getter in chief, but this year they seem to have uncovered a couple of gems. Ryan O’Rourke and Jack Heslin were arguably their players of the summer and added five points from play between them.
O’Rourke was denied one of two early Leitrim goal chances by Rory Beggan – the keeper kicked two points for his side too – and after that miss Monaghan pushed on with six unanswered points to lead 0-10 to 0-4 at half time.
McManus avoided a red card for his first-half tackle on Michael McWeeney, but was held to two points from play by the sticky Paddy Maguire, but Monaghan didn’t need him to be at his best.
McCarthy was on song though and his manager called on those around him to find their peak in the next few days.
“Conor is a top of the ground footballer. The summer conditions suit him better than the middle of the winter. We are very pleased with Conor,” said O’Rourke.
“We have a number of footballers there that can do that on different days. Now the challenge is that we get them clicking all on the same day and if we do that we will be in business.”
C McCarthy (1-3, 2 frees); C McManus (0-5, 3 frees); R Beggan (1f, 1 ’45), J McCarron (2 frees), P McKenna (0-2 each); F Kelly, K O’Connell, C Walshe, R Wylie D Ward (0-1 each).
E Mulligan (0-4 frees); J Heslin (0-3); R O’Rourke (0-2)
R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; F Kelly, C Walshe, D Ward; N Kearns, D Hughes; R McAnespie, D Malone, K O’Connell; C McCarthy, T Kerr, C McManus.
O Duffy for Malone (44), S Carey for T Kerr (44), P McKenna for Kelly (47), N McAdam for Hughes (50), D Mone for Boyle (54), J McCarron for McManus (61).
D McKiernan; P Maguire, J Mitchell, M McWeeney; J Rooney, S Quinn, N Plunkett; J Heslin, D Wrynn; A Flynn, R O’Rourke, B Gallagher; D Rooney, D Moran, E Mulligan.
D McGovern for Gallagher (33), C McGloin for Plunkett (half-time), D Flynn for Moran (54), E Ward for Heslin (61), N McWeeney for J Rooney (67), J Gilheany for Wrynn (71).
Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).