Monday 24 September 2018

WATCH: This is how close New York came to drawing with Leitrim - and causing fixture headache for the GAA

David Freeman of New York appeals to the officials after his late effort went wide
David Freeman of New York appeals to the officials after his late effort went wide

David Freeman came agonisingly close to snatching a draw for New York against Leitrim in Gaelic Park last night, a result that would have caused fixture chaos for the GAA.

Leitrim came from three points down in the dying minutes of extra time to beat the Exiles by a single point in a dramatic encounter.

In the end, Noel Plunkett delivered the knockout blow as he kept his nerve to point as the clock ticked into injury time in extra-time.

New York engineered one more chance to snatch a draw but Freeman's effort tailed wide and New York had let another real chance slip through their fingers once more.

Had Freeman found his range, a Connacht Council official confirmed that the Exiles would have been expected to travel back to Ireland for the replay, a scenario that could have led to visa issues for some of the New York panel.

Watch Freeman's effort here:

Last-gasp Kevin Plunkett the hero as Leitrim survive New York scare

Leitrim 0-19 New York 1-15 after extra-time

Leitrim manager Kevin Guckian insists he always believed his players would find a way to win even as they stared down the barrel of a three-point deficit in the closing minutes of extra-time in Gaelic Park last night.

Guckian's men kicked the last four points of a dramatic afternoon in the Bronx to deny New York an historic first win in the Connacht Championship since they entered the competition back in 1999.

The Exiles have been on the end of some heavy beatings since their bow in the province but much had been made of New York's chances of an upset this time around. They had secured the services of the likes of Jamie Clarke and Neil Collins while former Mayo star Tom Cunniffe was named as captain.

And for long periods it looked like they could deliver on that potential and were more than a match for Leitrim, despite the lack of games afforded to them. Justin O'Halloran's men had played against Corofin last week as part of their preparations but had spent the rest of the time playing in-house games to prepare for the visit of Leitrim.

In the end, Noel Plunkett delivered the knockout blow as he kept his nerve to point as the clock ticked into injury time in extra-time. New York engineered one more chance to snatch a draw but David Freeman's effort tailed wide and the Exiles had let another real chance slip through their fingers once more.

Had Freeman found his range, a Connacht Council official confirmed that the Exiles would have been expected to travel back to Ireland for the replay.

And despite the high drama in the Big Apple, Guckian never lost faith in his players.

"Genuinely I didn't think it was gone," Guckian insisted afterwards.

"At half-time in extra-time I told the lads I believed in them and they would win it and that's genuine - I did believe in them and thankfully they produced it at the end."

Guckian insists that he expected nothing other than his players to be brought to the brink given the players the Exiles had recruited for the game.

"I was expecting a very difficult game with the calibre of players New York have this year. You can start with Jamie Clarke but there's not only him, Neil Collins, you have so many real talented players there and they put a lot into it so we were expecting a difficult challenge and that proved to be the case.

"I have been saying it for a while, we have a good squad; at times we haven't shown it but there's a willingness there and a belief starting to come into the squad and I think they showed that today. My hope would be that that would really bring them on in a game where their character was tested on numerous occasions and they stood up and got a result."

Leitrim were a point up at half-time despite the concession of a goal after four minutes from New York-born midfielder Shane Hogan.

The home side led by 1-4 to 0-1 at one stage but Leitrim kicked eight of the game's next nine points to take a one-point lead in at the break with Emlyn Mulligan in good form.

However, New York will rue the passing of a good goal chance. Dalton McDonagh tried to find an unmarked Tony Donnelly but his handpass was overhit and the ball sailed harmlessly wide.

The teams were well matched in the second half with Clarke at the centre of most good things the New York men did, though he was well supported by Wexford man Kevin O'Grady.

New York needed a late free from Daniel McKenna to secure extra-time and Leitrim looked nervous when they came out for the added time, kicking four bad wides as Jamie Clarke helped them into a two-point lead at half-time in extra-time.

New York went three up and looked well placed to make history before Leitrim started their revival with three quick-fire points. In fact, one of the points might have been a goal but for the excellent work of Vinny Cadden in the New York goal.

The stage was set for sub Plunkett to step forward as the hero of the day as he kept his nerve to kick the winner, much to the disappointment of the vociferous home support amongst the 5,000 or so packed into the Bronx venue.

Afterwards, New York manager Justin O'Halloran admitted he was "devastated" for his players.

"The dressing room isn't the happiest place to be at the minute but hey you have to take it in the chin. We were right there but it didn't work out.

"I think (we lacked) a little bit of cuteness, not being in situations like that before we went for scores when maybe we should have held on to it a bit and taken down the clock a bit.

"We played well, we eased off a little bit after getting a good start. I don't know whether it was, 'Oh my God, what is going on here, we are winning.' And we held on to the ball instead of going direct like we normally go but they kept going."

And he agreed that they might have to wait quite a while to get a chance as good as this one to record a win again.

"Our fitness was great. I have to commend them. They worked very hard and I'm devastated for them because they put in huge effort.

"It's heartbreaking. Mayo is coming next year so the chance of a win there is slim so it was right there for us but, hey… back to the drawing board I guess."

SCORERS - Leitrim: K Beirne 0-7 (3f, 2 45), E Mulligan 0-3, R O'Rourke, S Quinn 0-2 each, M Plunkett, D McGovern, D Rooney, N Plunkett, A Flynn 0-1 each. New York: J Clarke 0-5 (2f), K O'Grady, T Donnelly (2f) 0-3 each, S Hogan 1-0, N Collins, D McKenna, L Kelly, D Culhane 0-1 each.

Leitrim - D McKiernan 7; P Maguire 7, M McWeeney 6, O Madden 7; J Rooney 6, D Wrynn 7, S Quinn 8; M Plunkett 6, D Flynn 6; J Heslin 8, E Mulligan 7, R O'Rourke 7; D Rooney 6, K Beirne 8, B Gallagher 6 Subs: D McGovern 7 for Flynn (21), R Kennedy 7 for Heslin (52), C Gaffney 6 for Rooney (58), D Rooney for Beirne (81).

New York - V Cadden 7; N Collins 8, D Ward 7, M Creegan 7; E Williams 7, T Cunniffe 8 , M Queenan 6; D Culhane 7, S Hogan 7; T Donnelly 7, J Clarke 7, L Kelly 6; K O'Grady 8, D McDonagh 7, D Freeman 6. Subs: D McKenna 7 for Freeman (33), J Collins 6 for Kelly (47), P Boyle 6 for Queenan (52), A Cunningham 6 for Donnelly (56), K Scally 7 for Collins (61), JJ Matthews for Cunnigham (68), L Kelly for Culhane (81), T Donnelly for Matthews (85).

Ref - D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)

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