Mulligan leads way as Leitrim launch brave fightback to bag final berth
Leitrim 1-12 Sligo 2-9
Leitrim got the draw they needed to qualify for their second FBD League final in a row following a superb second-half performance at Ballinamore.
In a high-tempo first half, Sligo hit the ground running and were two points up after four minutes through a free by Adrian Marren and Charlie Harrison effort.
Emlyn Mulligan got Leitrim off the mark with a sixth-minute free but three unanswered points by Cathal Brennan and Adrian Marren (2) put Sligo in a commanding position.
The visitors' forward line of David Kelly, Marren and Cathal Brennan caused the home defence all sorts of problems.
Three unanswered points kept Leitrim in touch but a Niall Murphy goal eight minutes from the end of the half reflected Sligo's dominance. And a goal from a penalty in injury-time by Marren gave the visitors a comfortable 2-7 to 0-7 lead at the interval.
Yet a remarkable fightback by Leitrim started immediately on the resumption with the introduction of Darren Sweeney at midfield -- he pointed after three minutes followed by two Mulligan frees to reduce the arrears.
The third quarter belonged to Leitrim as Sligo faded and, when Tomas Beirne rose highest to finish a Mulligan dropping ball to the Sligo net to level the contest 13 minutes from time, the large home support found their voice.
In a final quarter filled with excellent football and high excitement, Sligo restored their lead with a point from play by Connor Griffin in the 49th minute.
However, points by Mulligan and the equally impressive Ray Cox gave Leitrim the lead for the first time going into the final minutes.
Sligo drew level again two minutes from time when Cathal Burns pointed from play to set up a heart-stopping finale as both sides went in search of a winner.
However, time ran out and Leitrim held on for a deserved draw and a meeting with Roscommon in the final next Sunday at Carrick-on-Shannon.
Referee Paddy Neilan handed out two black cards to Damien Moran (Leitrim) and Pat Hughes (Sligo).
SCORERS -- Leitrim: E Mulligan 0-7 (6fs), T Beirne 1-0, F Clancy 0-2, A Hickey, D Sweeney, R Cox 0-1 each. Sligo: A Marren 1-3 (1f), N Murphy 1-0, D O'Boyle 0-2, C Brennan, C Harrison, C Griffin, C Burns 0-1 each.
LEITRIM -- C McCrann; G Reynolds, P Maguire, B Prior; P Brennan, G Reynolds, S Foley; A Hickey, D Moran; D Beck, F Clancy, G Hickey; E Mulligan (capt), T Beirne, R Cox. Subs: W McKeon for G Reynolds, D Sweeney for Foley, J Glancy for A Hickey, C Reynolds for G Hickey, McSweeney for Beck, E Mahon for Moran (bc).
SLIGO -- A Devaney; B Walsh, M Quinn, G Ryan; C Harrison, N Ewing (capt), J Kelly; J Kilcullen, D O'Boyle; P Hughes, N Murphy, C Griffin; D Kelly, A Marren, C Brennan. Subs: C Burns for Hughes (bc), B O'Mahony for O'Boyle, J Quinn for Brennan, C McGee for D Kelly, K Sweeney for Murphy, K McDonald for Griffin.
REF -- P Neilan (Roscommon).