Saturday 24 February 2018

A dreadful start for the garden

Allianz NFL Division 4 Round 1

Wicklow’s Dean Healy launches a shot towards the Leitrim posts
Wicklow’s Dean Healy launches a shot towards the Leitrim posts

Richard Clune

Leitrim defeated Wicklow by 10 points. Not Dublin, not Mayo, not Meath, not Sligo, not Clare, not Armagh. Leitrim. With all due respect to Leitrim, it's Leitrim.

Wicklow 0-10 Leitrim 1-17

Leitrim kicked 18 scores and had another eight wides giving Wicklow at least 26 kick outs.

It's not clear whether Wicklow won any of those kick-outs, Leitrim were utterly dominant.

The ball was camped in the Wicklow half for most of the match, the only time Wicklow regained possession was when a Leitrim attack broke down.

Losing the midfield battle has been a feature for Wicklow this year.

Another common feature has been the poor scoring return from the forward line. In the four matches to date they've scored 2-34, an average of 10 points per game. That won't win too many matches.

Seanie Furlong can do well but when he has a couple of players for company it's fairly difficult.

Outside of him there isn't much of a threat, Tommy Kelly will surely take a couple of matches to get back to match sharpness while John McGrath has been in poor form.

The defence had been fairly reasonable but the Leitrim forwards looked good on Sunday. Ciaran Hyland kept his man quiet and Paul Cunningham had a good first half but there was very little else to praise.

This is hard to take. Perhaps it was the enthusiasm coming from the new sponsorship deal and the murmurs that the panel was as strong as it could be that makes this defeat so galling, that some people went to the match with a sense of hope.

That enthusiasm and hope has been shattered.

Ryan O'Rourke had the ball in the Wicklow net after only 43 seconds. It was a quick Leitrim attack that had the Wicklow defence at sixes and sevens and the Leitrim forwards had the time and space to do as they wished.

Mark Plunkett's initial shot was saved by Robert Lambert but O'Rourke was on hand to capitalise on the rebound.

The day got slightly better before getting much worse. It was 1-01 to three points after 15 minutes, Dean Healy, John McGrath and a Tommy Kelly free with the points while Emlyn Mulligan kicked an outrageous score from an almost impossible angle for Leitrim's opening white flag.

That was as good as it got though for Wicklow, who didn't score for the next twenty minutes. In that time Leitrim had five more points on the board to take control of the match.

David Boothman made a lazy tackle to concede a free that Mulligan converted, Brendan Gallagher battles his way past a couple of challenges to fist over the second, O'Rourke added two points and Mark Plunkett kicked one over from a tough angle to make it 1-06 to 3 points in the 33rd minute.

Seanie Furlong broke the Wicklow drought with a free from just inside the 45 but Leitrim added two more points in injury time to go into the dressing rooms with a seven point lead.

Wicklow never got much closer than that in the second half and Leitrim had the luxury of bringing on Damien Moran to kick three points in his twenty five minutes on the pitch.

Mark Plunkett scored a couple of great points in the second half, one of which was a free from the outside of his boot out near the side line.

The only bright spot for Wicklow was a good Seanie Furlong point when he beat three or four challenges to create space to shoot.

Both teams finished the game with fourteen men as Stephen Kelly received a second yellow in the 60th minute and Emlyn Mulligan was dismissed in a similar fashion minutes later.

Waterford are the opponents next week and if the performance levels aren't improved drastically it will be a long Spring and a very short Summer.

Scorers - Leitrim: Ryan O'Rourke 1-04; Mark Plunkett (2f), Emlyn Mulligan (2f), Damien Moran 0-03 each; Keith Beirne 0-02; Brendan Gallagher, Dean McGovern 0-01 each.

Wicklow: Tommy Kelly (2f), Seanie Furlong (2f) 0-03 each; Dean Healy, Rory Finn, John McGrath, Anthony McLoughlin 0-01 each.

Wicklow: Robert Lambert; Ciaran Hyland, Paul Cunningham (St Judes), Jamie Snell; Darren Hayden, Dean Healy, Martin Cullen; Rory Finn, Ross O'Brien; David Boothman, Stephen Kelly, Mark Kenny; Tommy Kelly, Seanie Furlong, John McGrath. Subs: Eoin Murtagh for David Boothman (HT); Anthony McLoughlin for Mark Kenny (HT); Marc Lennon for John McGrath (50 mins); John Crowe for Martin Cullen (54 mins); Paul Cunningham (Bray) for Rory Finn (67 mins).

Leitrim: Philip Farrelly; Matthew Murphy, Alan Armstrong, Fionn Carney; James Rooney, Donal Wrynn, Oisin Madden; Shane Moran, Mark Plunkett; Gary Plunkett, Dean McGovern, Ryan O'Rourke; Emyln Mulligan, Keith Beirne, Brendan Gallagher. Subs: Damien Moran for Keith Beirne (50 mins); Ciallin Canning for Shane Moran (58 mins).

Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly).

Bray People

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