Friday 23 February 2018

Leitrim pride comes before breaking qualifier duck

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Redressing a "humiliating" defeat in Castlebar ahead of winning a first ever football qualifier match is the goal for Leitrim when Wicklow visit Pairc Sean MacDiarmada on Saturday.

Leitrim are the only county never to have won a qualifier since the back door's inception in 2001. But joint-manager George Dugdale insists that putting the memory of a 4-20 to 1-10 Connacht semi-final drubbing by Mayo will mean more than breaking their qualifier duck.

In 11 years of qualifiers, they have lost all 10 games played -- in 2008 they were re-routed to the Tommy Murphy Cup when one of the qualifier rounds was dropped.

There have been days when they have gone close and days when they have taken much more illustrious opponents to extra-time.

But with London beating Fermanagh in Ruislip last season, they are now out on their own without a win through the back door.

"It's not something on our minds. At least it wasn't up until the Mayo game. Even now I would think redressing the humiliating defeat to Mayo is more important than any record," said Dugdale.

"Obviously, breaking the duck would be important, but restoring pride is a priority."

Dugdale said there is no obvious reason why Leitrim have lost every qualifier they have played.

They forced Meath to extra-time in Carrick-on-Shannon in 2005 and did the same with Donegal in '07.

They have lost to Sligo and Roscommon by the minimum margin, but have shipped some heavy beatings too.

"We've gone close. Maybe there has been an issue with motivation some times. Obviously, winning an All-Ireland is a non-starter," said Dugdale.

"But I'd like to think that this team is determined to restore pride after Mayo."

Dugdale admits that the gap between the top teams and those in the bottom tiers appears to be getting bigger, but he has qualified recent comments attributed to him that called for structural change.

"I feel I was misinterpreted. Yes, I did call for the GAA to look at structures, but I wasn't advocating change," he said.

"I would accept that the gap is greater than it used to be, but we always faced struggles with resources and a small playing base."

Leitrim expect to be without Wayne McKeon and Daniel Lowe, who are sidelined with ankle injures. McKeon limped off after 10 minutes against May.

Leitrim's qualifier tale of woe

2001 -- Round 1: Antrim 0-13 Leitrim 1-8, Casement Park

2002 -- Round 2: Tyrone 1-22 Leitrim 0-7, Carrick-on-Shannon

2003 -- Round 2: Roscommon 2-9 Leitrim

1-11, Carrick-on-Shannon

2004-- Round 2: Dublin 1-13 Leitrim 0-4, Carrick-on-Shannon

2005 -- Round 1: Meath 1-12 Leitrim 1-8, Carrick-on-Shannon

2006 -- Round 2: Sligo 1-7 Leitrim 0-9, Carrick-on-Shannon

2007 -- Round 1: Donegal 1-16 Leitrim 1-14 (aet), Carrick-on-Shannon

2008 -- Played in Tommy Murphy Cup

2009 -- Round 2: Longford 0-13 Leitrim 0-10, Carrick-on-Shannon

2010 -- Round 2: Kildare 1-12 Leitrim 0-6, Newbridge

2011 -- Round 2: Down 1-16 Leitrim 1-8, Newry

Irish Independent

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