Leitrim handed themselves an Allianz Football League lifeline by picking up their first win in Division 3 with an unexpectedly easy victory over fellow strugglers Louth, who are all but relegated with two games left to play.
Ryan O’Rourke is becoming a player of national level quality, his presence in the starting line up alone allowed the visitors to play with freedom on the day and he cut Louth apart with 2-03 in what was only his second start of the season.
Louth couldn’t even be buoyed by a venue change, with the surface at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda not fit for purpose, St. Brigid’s Park, Dowdallshill couldn’t help them pick up their first league points, as they were simply overpowered down the stretch.
The basement battle in Dundalk began at a helter skelter rate, with both sides bouncing from end to end, with coughing up the ball the key ingredient for the erratic play.
Leitrim midfielder Donal Wrynn settled the game down with the opening score from distance.
Louth corner-forward Ryan Burns, who was a spectator in Liverpool's first loss at Vicarage Road the evening previous, fired a shot over the bar to open their account, quickly followed up by Declan Byrne using the wind to perfection.
With Louth leaving themselves open at the back, O’Rourke then introduced himself to the game.
The centre-forward was already orchestrating things and got on the end of a Wrynn flick from their own kick out, to drive down the centre and finish to the back of the net with aplomb.
Both sides then went point-for-point in the run into half-time. Louth’s third midfielder Bevan Duffy slotting over in between two O’Rourke scores.
Despite Louth’s wastefulness in the first half, seven wides to Leitrim’s two, they importantly hung in the game.
Burns and Tommy Durnin narrowed the gap to two at half-time to make it 1-05 to 0-06, in the favour of Leitrim.
Emerging from the dressing room, the Leinster men continued to dominate the early parts of the second half,
Burns landed another free but Leitrim stormed into the pivotal period of the game to outscore the hosts 2-03 to no score.
Wrynn again showed leadership and got the first for his side and Keith Beirne illustrated the dominance for Terry Hyland’s men with two frees and a penalty he won and converted himself.
O’Rourke would seal the tie with a ruthless tap in after an overrun Fergal Sheekey in the Louth goal made an excellent save to deny Darragh Rooney.
Louth did rally through a Burns penalty, however, they were unable to reel in an organised Leitrim outfit who saw impressive Rooney punish Wayne Kierans side at every opportunity to fire over three second half points at full-forward.
While Louth have both table toppers Down and Cork left, the away victory in tow and confidence high, the great escape is very much on for Leitrim.
The Connacht men have Down to play in Newry next and finally Tipperary at home, which now looks like a mouthwatering survival play-off game.
Louth: Fergal Sheekey; Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, James Craven; Eoghan Callaghan, Emmet Carolan, John Clutterbuck; Conor Early, Tommy Durnin (0-00, 0-01f); Ciaran Downey (0-01), Sam Mulroy (0-02), Conall McKeever; Bevan Duffy (0-01), Declan Byrne (0-01), Ryan Burns (1-04, 1-00pen, 0-02f).
Subs Used: Liam Jackson (0-01) for Early (44), Ger McSorley (0-01) for McKeever (51), Oisín Murray for Clutterbuck (56) Conor Grimes for Byrne (56), Ciaran Byrne for Burns (63).
Leitrim: Diarmuid McKiernan, Conor Reynolds, Paddy Maguire, Fergal McTague; Cillian McGlion (0-01), Mark Plunkett (0-01), Jack Gilheaney, Donal Wrynn (0-02), Keith Keegan; Domhaill Flynn, Ryan O’Rourke (2-03), Aidan Flynn; Shane Moran, Darragh Rooney (0-03, 0-01m), Keith Beirne (1-04, 1-00pen, 0-04f).
Subs Used: Oisin McCaffrey for Keegan (65), Pierce Dolan for Wyrnn (70+1), Riordan O’Rourke for Flynn (70+2), Evan Sweeney for Rooney (70+3)
Referee: Liam Devenny (Mayo)