Battling Leitrim produced a courageous performance to down Wicklow 0-13 to 0-10 in a thrilling SFC Qualifier tie at Carrick-on-Shannon.
James Glancy and Emlyn Mulligan laid on an exhibition of finishing as Barney Breen’s side sparked a shock in front of a crowd of 3,346 to record their first ever Qualifier win.
Wicklow, however, can only blame their own wastefulness for the disappointing manner in which they limped out of the championship. They shot 10 wides in the second half, 16 in all, as they kicked themselves to an early exit from the race for Sam Maguire.
All credit to Leitrim, though, for their hungry and fearless approach to an entertaining tie that has given their supporters a massive lift.
Wicklow failed to make use of the possession secured around a congested central area by Peadar Burke and James Stafford.
Ray Cox and James Glancy shot the home side in front, but they were level six times in the opening half, with Seanie Furlong converting a free, which was quickly cancelled out by Emlyn Mulligan.
Joey Kelly’s second score brought Wicklow level, and the lively half-forward could have had a goal when he got on the end of a move involving Stafford and Furlong, but blazed his shot over the bar.
Leitrim found Wicklow’s defensive set-up difficult to break down, but when Glancy tried his luck from distance, he delivered with a second point of real quality.
A spell of sustained Leitrim pressure produced nothing more than a Mulligan free, and they were almost caught on the counter-attack, but goalkeeper Cathal McCrann produced a superb save to deny John McGrath.
And a hard-working Leitrim side eased ahead by 0-7 to 0-6 at the break with a third Mulligan free.
And the Melvin Gaels sharpshooter gave his side a positive start to the second half with two more accurately struck frees.
Now winning the majority of breaking ball around midfield, Barney Breen’s men were also increasingly tenacious in the tackle, forcing their opponents into a series of poorly directed shots.
And when an expansive move ended with substitute Gerry Hickey swinging over an inspirational point from the left wing, Leitrim led by four.
It took Wicklow 18 minutes to get their first point of the second half, a long-range effort from substitute Nicky Mernagh.
But the misfiring Leinster men continued to rack up the wides, and when Stafford pushed forward to pick up a loose ball to fire in a shot, his hurried effort failed to trouble the goalkeeper.
Wicklow sensed that their season was hanging by a thread, and stepped up the tempo for Dean Healy and Furlong to narrow the gap, but Furlong and Glancy still had an eye for the posts, sealing it with late scores.
Leitrim scorers: E Mulligan 0-6 (6f), J Glancy 0-5, R Cox, G Hickey 0-1 each.
Wicklow scorers: J Kelly 0-3, S Furlong (1f), J McGrath 0-2 each, T Hannon (f), D Healy, N Mernagh 0-1 each.
LEITRIM: C McCrann, D Beck, A Wynne, P Maguire, C Clarke, E Williams, F McMorrow, D Sweeney, S Moran, P Brennan, E Mulligan, P McGowan, R Cox, J Glancy, K Conlon.
Subs: G Hickey for Sweeney, R Lowe for Moran, A Croal for Conlon, B McDonald for Cox
WICKLOW: J Flynn, S Kelly, A McLoughlin, A Byrne, D Healy, S Byrne, D Hayden, J Stafford, R Finn, D O’Sullivan, S Furlong, J Kelly, J McGrath, T Hannon, P Burke.
Subs: N Gaffney for A Byrne, C McGraynor for O’Sullivan, N Mernagh for Hannon, P Dalton for Kelly
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).