Leitrim edge Wicklow in tight battle to book place in second round of the qualifiers
Leitrim 0-15 Wicklow 0-13
Leitrim will play in the second round of the All-Ireland qualifiers for the fourth year running after a two-point win over Wicklow.
Terry Hyland secured his first championship win in charge as they built on their promising league form which saw them promoted from Division 4.
Ryan O’Rourke was the star of the show at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon where Leitrim had to fight for their win after the teams were deadlocked at half-time.
It finished 1-16 to 1-12 to Leitrim at Aughrim on February 3 but neither side dominated the opening half here, with the respective free-takers taking centre stage instead.
Leitrim trailed inside two minutes with Wicklow midfielder Pádraig O’Toole on target.
The big Kiltegan clubman could have gone for goal after he burst through down the left wing, instead he decided to fist the ball over Cathal McCrann’s crossbar. And that set the tone for a dull first half in damp and dreary conditions.
Pearce Dolan and Domhnaill Flynn combined to put Leitrim into their first lead of the half, before that was cancelled out by a couple of points from the reliable right boot of Wicklow goalkeeper Mark Jackson. He scored a free and a 45.
Leitrim looked in real trouble every time they conceded a free inside their own half, but it was Ryan O’Rourke who drew the sides level down the other end in the 21st minute.
That came from a free as did Jackson’s reply for Wicklow and then O’Rourke doubled his first half tally from frees. It was 0-4 to 0-4 with ten minutes of normal time remaining in the first half.
Leitrim did reel off three points in-a-row then, Shane Quinn and Paddy Maguire added two fine efforts from play. But such was the tempo of this game, that Wicklow did likewise down the other end of the field.
Two frees from Mark Kenny and Rory Finn pushed Wicklow 0-7 to 0-6 in front as the game headed towards half-time.
There was still time for O’Rourke to land an awesome curled effort from distance, his third of the half. And then in the 34th minute, Oisín McCaffrey was shown a black card.
David Devereaux could have sent Wicklow in with a massive boost but his shot rattled the Leitrim crossbar and the teams were level at the break.
Raymond Mulvey gave Leitrim the perfect start to the second half with a swiftly struck effort and after Jackson scored another outstanding free, Dolan and O’Rourke provided a 0-10 to 0-8 platform for Leitrim to build from.
Jackson came forward to slot his fifth point from a 45 in the 49th minute and a quick-fire leveller followed from substitute Conor Healy.
O’Rourke put Leitrim back in front as he continued his personal battle with the opposition goalkeeper. Jackson hit back.
But Leitrim grabbed a crucial two-point cushion with back-to-back scores from O’Rourke and Dolan by the 59th minute. Dean Healy and O’Rourke traded points but Leitrim had enough in the tank to advance and bring an end to Wickow's season under John Evans.
Scorers – Leitrim: R O’Rourke 0-7 (0-4f), P Dolan 0-3, P Maguire 0-1, S Quinn 0-1, D Flynn 0-1, R Mulvey 0-1, N Brady 0-1.
Wicklow: M Jackson 0-7 (0-5f, 0-2 45), R Finn 0-2 (0-1f), M Kenny 0-1 (0-1f), P O’Toole 0-1, C Healy 0-1, D Healy 0-1.
Leitrim: C McCrann; P Maguire, M McWeeney, A Flynn; R Mulvey, M Plunkett, C Reynolds; O McCaffrey, S Moran; D Flynn, S McWeeney, S Quinn; E Sweeney, P Dolan, R O’Rourke.
Subs: D McGovern for McCaffrey (35, black card), N Brady for Sweeney (60), O Madden for Reynolds (64), G Plunkett for S McWeeney (65), J Gilheaney for Moran (69), Moran for Plunkett (70), N Plunkett for Quinn (75).
Wicklow: M Jackson; J Snell, R O’Brien, E Murtagh; D Devereaux, S Mooney, D Fitzgerald; P O’Toole, D Healy; R Finn, D Hayden, T Smith; M Kenny, C O’Brien, P O’Connor.
Subs: C Healy for Devereaux (44), D Keane for O’Connor (61), A McLoughlin for Hayden (61), C McGraynor for Smith (69), C McGee for Finn (73).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).