LEITRIM 0-9 MAYO 0-8 LEITRIM DUG deep to hold on for a fully merited win on Sunday in Ballinamore over All Ireland finalists Mayo who only fielded three of their starting team that faced Donegal – Lee Keegan, Enda Varley and Michael Conroy.
Emlyn Mulligan, the showdown's top marksman, secured victory for Leitrim when he tapped over a 56th minute free after sub James Glancy had been fouled inside the Mayo 45-metre line.
Afterwards Mayo boss James Horan conceded Leitrim "on their competitive play deserved their win" while acknowledging "we didn't work as hard as we could."
Commenting on his sides return during the week from their winter training break in Miami , Horan said "the sleep pattern wouldn't have been ideal coming into the game" but "our work rate in the second half wasn't great."
The Mayo Manager also added "Leitrim were up for the game and had a competitive game against Roscommon. Leitrim were good today and the way the game panned out in the second half they could have won it by more and probably should have won it by more.
Meanwhile a happy Leitrim joint manager George Dugdale stated "it was a good all-round performance other than for a ten minute spell at the end of the first half. We played some very good football and worked hard for each other, took some nice scores, missed some, which we have to work on, made some silly mistakes as well but they always happen.
Dugdale also noted "the most pleasing thing is the way we fought out to get the victory at the end. This is a huge psychological barrier (overcome) bearing in mind Mayo defeated us (by 22points) the last time we played them (in the Connacht championship last June)."
On the possibility that Leitrim will get to play in their first ever FBD League final provided they overcome GMIT in Cloone on Sunday, George stated, "Now the challenge is with GMIT next week – that's a challenge for us.
"If we do things right and play to our potential, I think we have the potential to win – but we still have to win. We are not taking it any further than that – if we win then we will regroup and think about what lies ahead after that" Dugdale stated in conclusion.
Against Mayo Leitrim built up a 0 – 5 to 0 – 0 lead by the 16th minute with three frees converted by Emlyn Mulligan while Adrian Croal and Ray Cox shot a point each.
But Mayo made it level pegging in the second quarter in which they impressed with points from Darren Coen, Alan Freeman, Michael Conroy, Lee Keegan and Barry Moran.
Leitrim lived dangerously at times. Their blushes were covered up by 'keeper Cathal McCrann when he made two top class first half saves from Tom Cunniffe and Darren Coen while Alan Freeman also drove a 5th minute goal chance wide.
It was still level by the 52nd minute after both sides traded 0 – 3 at opposite ends with Paddy McGowan, Adrian Croal and Emlyn Mulligan finding the target for Leitrim while Alan Freeman, Enda Varley and Darren Coen did likewise for Mayo. Leitrim then claimed their first victory over Mayo since 1994 Connacht final when Emlyn Mulligan put over a 56th minute free.
Cathal McCrann; Alan Wynne, Ciaran Egan, Paddy Maguire, Daniel Beck, Paul Brennan, Colm Clarke; Wayne McKeon, Paddy McGowan 0 – 1; Gerry Hickey, Emlyn Mulligan 0 – 5(3fs.), Kevin Conlan, Ray Cox 0 – 1, Brian McDonald, Adrian Croal (0 – 2). SUBS: Sean McWeeney for Egan (27 mins); James Glancy for Conlan (HT); Conor Beirne for Cox (43 mins); Robbie Lowe for McDonald (53 mins).
Kenneth O'Malley; Michael Walsh, Shane McHale, Lee Keegan 0 – 1; Tom Cunniffe, Keith Rogers, Richie Feeney; Jason Gibbons, Seamus O'Shea; Conor O'Shea, Enda Varley 0 – 1, Cathal Carolan; Darren Coen 0 – 2, Alan Freeman 0 – 2, Michael Conroy 0 – 1. SUBS: Barry Moran 0 – 1 for Gibbons (4 mins.); Colm Boyle for C. O'Shea (43 mins.); Ger Cafferkey for McHale (50 mins.).