By James McMahon
Delight in Leitrim
Pride of place must go to the Leitrim U-21 footballers after their Connacht semi-final victory over the reigning All-Ireland champions Galway.
Playing with the elements in the first-half, the Tribesmen raced into a lead of 0-05 to 0-01 and looked on course to complete the expected victory.
However Leitrim showed great resolve to stem the tide, with Niall Brady kicking over the winning point for a 0-09 to 0-08 success. It was the country’s first victory in the U-21 grade since 1998.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Leitrim boss Shane Ward praised the commitment shown by his squad in the run-up to last Saturday’s win. He can take even more satisfaction with the way his troops tackled and harried their opponents in Carrick-on-Shannon, denying them space to create many guilt-edged chances.
Leitrim are a proud footballing county and are well supported both at home and beyond. Yet, morale must have been low after last year’s Championship exit to London and the subsequent mauling by Armagh in the qualifiers where they conceded eight goals.
Sean Hagan’s arrival as senior boss has restored confidence and apart from their surprise defeat to Waterford, they remain in the hunt to get promotion from Division 4 of the League.
Indeed wins over Tipperary and London in their last two matches could see them go up.
As for the U-21s, they now face Roscommon in the Connacht decider in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday week. The Rossies, after breezing past Mayo in the first round, had to withstand a late Sligo rally at Markievicz Park to claim their final spot.
It’s all set up for an intriguing clash at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada and irrespective of the outcome Leitrim will be hoping that their heroics this spring can be the launchpad that will see them become ever more competitive across all grades in the years ahead.
A calculator is always handy on the final day of regulation games in the Allianz League. Where two teams or more finish on the same points the focus immediately shifts to the for and against columns and Dublin’s fate was sealed when they lost out by a goal to Tipperary.
A two-point reverse would have seen Anthony Daly’s men make the quarter-finals and a date with Cork next Sunday.However, they must now prepare for a Division 1A relegation play-off with Waterford in Walsh Park.
In the end, Niall McMorrow’s decision not to take his point in the dying seconds proved crucial.
Despite beating both Clare and Kilkenny, the Dubs are now 70 minutes away from possibly dropping down to 1B. They have already lost to Waterford in this year’s campaign in advance of next Sunday’s do or die battle – so they won’t lack for motivation.
The Déise enter the game on the back of trimmings at the hands of Clare and Kilkenny and will have little time to get focused on what will be their last competitive match before they face Cork in the Munster Championship on 25 May.
Shenanigans in Tullamore
Next weekend sees the clocks go forward for the official start of ‘summertime.’ It’s a change over that often catches people out as they wonder why a particular event or occasion has started without them.
No clocks went forward in the weekend just past, but Antrim hurlers made plans to arrive in Tullamore for a 3.00pm throw-in in their league clash with Offaly.They reached their O’Connor Park destination at 1.50pm, unaware that the game was set to start some 10 minutes later.
Obviously a communication malfunction of sorts had occurred, though in this day and age surely you’d expect a group of GAA management, players and officials to know the exact starting time of a fixture.
Proceedings eventually got underway at 2.20pm in what was a dead-rubber as both counties are due to meet again in Ballycastle next Sunday for the all-important relegation play-off.
For what it was worth Offaly coasted to a 21-point victory against opposition, who travelled to the midlands with only four subs in their ranks.
You can expect Kevin Ryan’s Saffrons to be more competitive with a stronger hand this coming weekend. Home advantage should also aid their cause. As for Offaly, they will no doubt be planning to be in Ballycastle well ahead of the starting time of 2.00pm.
Laois Welcome the Banner
O’Moore Park in Portlaoise is sure to attract a decent crowd for the visit of Clare in the Division 1 HL quarter-final. Indeed Laois boss Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett is relishing the opportunity of having a cut of Davy Fitz’s side.
Speaking to RTÉ he said: “I think it will be a great occasion for all hurling supporters in Laois. We’re really looking forward to it. We played them in the Championship last year and while they got ahead of us early on I felt we remained competitive throughout."
However, is Cheddar’s optimism at the prospect of facing Clare shared by the Laois faithful?
RTÉ’s Des Cahill was in O’Moore Park on Sunday for Laois’ narrow defeat to Limerick. After the final whistle it was revealed over the PA that Laois would be facing Clare in the quarter-finals. Des added that the announcement was met by silence by those assembled.
Of the 15 games played in this year’s Division 1A hurling, 13 matches were won by the home side, with one away success (Clare over Tipperary) and one draw (Clare v Galway).
What impact will home advantage have on the conclusion of the Division 1 campaign? Can Limerick, Laois and Wexford from 1B make home comforts count in the last-eight count?