FOOTBALL: Leitrim 1-14 Roscommon 0-14 (TG4 Connacht IFC Final)
by Darren Kelly in Tuam Stadium (Leitrim captain Clare Owens lifts the Cup)
Leitrim defied league positions and mainstream predictions on Sunday (15th May) to successfully retain their Connacht intermediate championship.
Leah Fox’s goal at half-time secured parity following a period mainly controlled by the Division 3 champions before Michelle Guckian put the boot down in the second half.
Hugh Donnelly’s team failed to gain promotion from Division 4 but earned their provincial final place following wins over Roscommon and Sligo. But they had a mountain to climb six minutes into this when the primrose and blue went 0-4 to 0-0 ahead.
Mikaela McHugh, Niamh Feeney, Fiona Tully and Jenny Higgins (Shine) found the target but Oliver Lennon’s team didn’t do enough damage and kicked eight first half wides.
Leitrim got off the mark through Guckian on six minutes before she added a free. Laura Fleming and Natalie McHugh restored Roscommon’s four-point lead but Guckian’s third, after Laura O’Dowd was denied by the post, left it 0-6 to 0-3 on 25 minutes.
Fox was already exploiting gaps, testing Roscommon’s concentration and eventually reaped her reward. Ailish Cornyn delivered down the middle, the Glencar/Manorhamilton forward turned to leave her marker behind and rounded Helena Cummins for the goal.
O’Dowd and Roise Lennon traded to leave it 1-4 to 0-7 at half-time. However, Roscommon restarted brightly again and Higgins’ low drive was stopped by a super one handed Michelle Monaghan save.
Roisin Wynne put Roscommon in front and Natalie McHugh & Fleming were denied again by Monaghan. But Megan McGovern and Fox (2), both set up by Shaylan Ward, had Leitrim 1-7 to 0-8 up on 39 minutes.
Natalie McHugh reduced arrears but Leitrim, and Guckian in particular, were finding their groove. Four points in two minutes, three from play, had the Wild Rose county 1-11 to 0-9 clear.
Lauren Shanagher and Natalie McHugh reduced arrears kept Roscommon within one kick. But they never managed the saving score though Niamh Shanagher came close before the finish.
Guckian added three more to bring her personal contribution to double digits while Aisling Hanley (2) and Fleming provided the Roscommon response. It was a third consecutive defeat to the Connacht champions as both teams turn their attention to the All-Ireland series in two weeks.
Scorers – Leitrim: Michelle Guckian 0-10 (4f), Leah Fox 1-2, Laura O’Dowd 0-1, Megan McGovern 0-1.
Scorers – Roscommon: Natalie McHugh 0-3, Laura Fleming 0-2 (1f), Aisling Hanly 0-2 (1f), Mikaela McHugh 0-1, Niamh Feeney 0-1, Fiona Tully 0-1, Jenny Shine 0-1, Roise Lennon 0-1 (f), Róisín Wynne 0-1, Lauren Shanagher 0-1.
Leitrim: Michelle Monaghan; Eimhin Quinn, Ailish Cornyn, Siobhán MCartan; Carla Le Guen, Clare Owens, Charlene Tyrell; Megan McGovern, Elise Bruen; Laura O’Dowd, Niamh Tighe, Shaylan Ward; Róisín McHugh, Michelle Guckian, Leah Fox.
Subs used: Bronagh O’Rourke for McHugh (25), Mary Alice Maguire for Quinn (27), Siomha Quinn for Tighe (35), Aisling Quinn for McGovern (51).
Roscommon: Helena Cummins; Sinéad Kenny, Aisling McCauliffee, Rachel Brady; Niamh Feeney, Rachel Fitzmaurice, Róisín Wynne; Jenny Shine, Laura Fleming; Caroline Conway, Natalie McHugh, Fiona Tully; Aisling Hanly, Mikaela McHugh, Roise Lennon.
Subs used: Lauren Shanagher for Lennon (37), Niamh Shanagher for Conway (47), Ellen Irwin for Tully (50), Sarah McVeigh for Shine (55).
Referee: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo)