Saturday 20 January 2018

Lovely Leitrim tear Wicklow asunder

THE Leitrim lads landed in a bitterly cold Hollywood on Saturday afternoon and promptly dismantled a struggling Wicklow side from the throw-in in the final game in the Hastings Cup for the Garden County.

The Leitrim lads landed in a bitterly cold Hollywood on Saturday afternoon and promptly dismantled a struggling Wicklow side from the throw-in in the final game in the Hastings Cup for the Garden County.

On what was a horrible day for football the Wicklow lads just couldn't get to grips with the power and the dominance of the men from the west who ran Meath very close in their second game the previous weekend.

Wicklow's main problem stemmed from an inability to control possession around the middle of the field and a complete failure at containing a fairly dangerous inside line, with corner forward Niall Brady running riot in the opening half.

Leitrim possessed some fine footballers with half back, Killian McGriskin, completely running the show with some splendid long range passing that gave the Leitrim two-man inside forward line the platform from which to cause so much havoc in this game, especially in the opening half.

Another noticeable difference between the two sides was the free taking. In the early stages when Wicklow were competing they won several frees from between the 30 and 40 yard distance from goal. All Wicklow's frees were taken from the ground on a dirty, wet day and all were missed. Leitrim, on the other hand, opted to take their frees from the hand and most were scored.

One of Wicklow's busiest players, Nially Clarke from Hollywood, won his county's opening two frees. Rathnew's Theo Smith went short with the first and the Leitrim defence cleared and he sent his second one wide.

Donard's Dan Mahon had a decent game in goals, with some good saves to his credit although a few kick outs did put his defence under pressure at times. The netminder saved after five minutes from Cian Clinton and the ball was subsequently fouled by a Wicklow defender and the very impressive Niall Brady pointed the game's opening score.

Leitrim were playing a very northern style of football from the start of this game with their defenders marking space instead of their men. At least two of their forwards were dropping back deep around the middle, creating a complete traffic jam that forced Wicklow to play laterally and play themselves into trouble constantly.

Wicklow's inside forward line couldn't really be isolated or picked out because their Leitrim markers were doing such a fine job of man marking them even though they tried valiantly all day.

Even in the early stages in was clear that Niall Brady was giving John Manley a serious headache and the Leitrim lad had his and his side's second point thanks to one of many fine passes from Killian McGriskin.

Coolkenno's David Tompkins got on the end of a battling move by Wicklow and he pointed after 10 minutes but worryingly, Wicklow were made to work unbelievably hard for their reward.

A minute later McGriskin provided Brady with another delicious long range pass and with space to turn and settle the corner forward bombed over.

Niall Clarke won another free then but the tactic of taking frees from the ground came back to bite the Wicklow team when the placed kick was sent wide.

Dan Mahon came to Wicklow's rescue again soon after when he spread himself well and saved from midfielder Enna Madden who had rampaged up the field.

Ross O'Brien then fouled Padraig Gallagher and Thomas Mulvey popped over the free.

Hard Leitrim tackling at midfield from the resulting Wicklow kick out saw the possession coughed up and centre half forward, Shane Quinn, found Niall Brady in far too much room yet again and he seized his opportunity with aplomb to make it 0-05 to 0-01 after 19 minutes of play.

In fairness to John Manley, the quality of ball that Brady was getting was outstanding and the guy seemed to be able to do no wrong because a few minutes later he fired over from a really tight angle after another ball from half back Killian McGriskin who was proving to be a major thorn in Wicklow's side.

But Wicklow found some hope after 20 minutes. Midfielder Shane Hogan collected from the kick out. Ross O'Brien gathered and six passes later he gathered again and sent a rocket to the bottom corner of the Leitrim net.

Moments later Wicklow would fire another free wide from the ground and then the Wicklow management made the switch in the full back line with Jamie Snell picking up Brady and John Manley moving across to keep Padraig Gallagher company.

Unfortunately for Manley, Gallagher gathered the very next ball and fired over and then from a poor Wicklow kick out (after a Leitrim wide from a free) James Rooney walloped the ball over the bar.

Brady had the last say of the half when he fired over a free to leave the score at 0-08 to 1-01 with Wicklow very glad of the half time whistle.

Wicklow offered Brendan McCrea into the action from the restart and the Carnew man did manage to get on some ball but, in truth, this was a hill Wicklow were not going to be able to climb and although David Tompkins popped over the first score of the second half, Wicklow just couldn't dampen Leitrim's fire in the slightest.

A horrible deflection off a Wicklow defender saw Shane Quinn's shot hit the back of Mahon's net after 19 minutes of the second half to bring the scores to 1-12 to 1-04 and then a foul by Mahon saw him black carded and the awarding of a penalty to Leitrim and substitute keeper, Bob Fitzgerald couldn't keep out the spot kick.

Leitrim ran out very comfortable winners on a score line of 2-13 to 1-05.

Wicklow People

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