Monday 16 December 2019

Hagan: Don't rule out Leitrim upset

Leitrim manager Sean Hagan
Leitrim manager Sean Hagan

THE odds may be stacked against Leitrim in Sunday's Connacht SFC quarter-final against Roscommon but manager Sean Hagan says that's not how they view it.

"It is a derby game, it's 70 minutes of football and, in any one-off game, anything can happen," he stressed.

"Yes, we have to travel to The Hyde and we're a Division 4 team playing against what is a Division 2 team now but you can't approach it like that.

"This is the Connacht Championship and anything can happen in it. We'd feel we can beat them, why not?"

Roscommon's good vein of form has made them hot favourites.

Not only did John Evans' side cause a shock by beating Tipperary in the Division 3 final but they did it without their U-21 stars who subsequently lost the All-Ireland final to Dublin. Add in home advantage on a pitch that usually heavily favours the Rossies and it's a tough draw for Leitrim, especially as the winners play Mayo.

Roscommon also have the additional carrot of having home advantage if they make that Connacht semi-final.

But Leitrim beat Roscommon in this year's FBD final, when they retained their title they first won last year, and have already got some good championship results this year.

Their U-21s surprised the reigning All-Ireland champions Galway in the Connacht semi-final to get what was the county's first U-21 championship victory in 16 years.

Their minors won the province's minor league and their juniors also beat Galway to reach the provincial JFC final against Sligo.

The fact that the junior final is a curtain-raiser in The Hyde next Sunday ensures that Leitrim fans will travel in large numbers.

Their juniors feature a mix of newcomers like Jonathan Cassidy with former stalwarts like Declan Maxwell, Adrian Croal, James Glancy (St Marys) and Enda Lyons. If Leitrim's seniors cause a shock next weekend Hagan says they will look closely at those juniors and see if any of them are ready to make the step-up into the senior set-up.

His side have already lost one key man to injury and in particularly unfortunate circumstances. All-action wing-forward Fergal Clancy broke his collarbone in a league game against Wicklow back in March yet had battled his way back in record time. But when he lined out in a recent challenge game against Sligo he broke his collarbone again.

"Fergal will be a big loss because he wins an awful lot of hard ball for us," Hagan admitted.

"We have the usual amount of dead legs and niggles and a few fellas missed training last weekend with a vomiting bug but we won't be looking for excuses, we just have to get on with it."


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