Leitrim on a high and out to make most of clash with Monaghan
A year ago, Leitrim lost a qualifier tie to Carlow and then looked on enviously as Turlough O'Brien's squad stretched Monaghan all the way to stoppage time in Round 3 before eventually losing by five points.
Now, Leitrim are preparing for a Round 3 game and, as luck would have it, Monaghan provide the opposition. Like Carlow in Netwatch Cullen Park last year, they will have home advantage in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday.
Progressing in the qualifiers sent Carlow's confidence levels soaring and the upward graph continued this season, when they were promoted to Division 3.
It remains to be seen what impact reaching Round 3 has on Leitrim but it has certainly transformed the short-term mood after the 0-24 to 0-10 defeat by Roscommon in Connacht.
Last Saturday, Leitrim scored 0-25 when beating Louth by 10 points, a result that sent a surge of energy coursing through the county.
"It was so special for everyone involved on and off the pitch," said manager Brendan Guckian.
"Younger lads and the more experienced players really gelled and it was so good to see them beating a Division 2 team. It's the least they deserved. The amount of work they put in and the way they apply themselves is fantastic."
During third-level college terms, 22 of the panel are based outside of Leitrim, so it requires a particular level of dedication to remain committed to the cause, especially since the chances of success are limited.
"We have a lot of young players on the panel and obviously it takes time to develop them physically and mentally for inter-county football. We're getting there though. Their willingness to learn and do whatever it takes to get better makes them a joy to work with," added Guckian.
"It would have been easy to throw in the towel after the Roscommon game but the mood remained good. They continued to work hard and the reward came against Louth. It gave the supporters something to shout about too."
Monaghan hit Waterford for 5-21 last Saturday, underlining the extent of the challenge ahead but Leitrim see the massive test as something to be embraced rather than feared.
"Obviously, there's a big difference between Division 1 and Division 4 but we'll be doing our best to bridge it. It's a good day for Leitrim and we want to make sure that we not only enjoy it but that we also take a lot from it in terms of learning what's it like performing at a higher level," said Guckian.
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