A lack of a scoring edge cost the home team dearly at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday as a more efficient Leitrim side took their chances and ran out deserving winners in this fifth round Allianz League Division 4 encounter.
It was close in the opening minutes with both sides sharing four points. Playing against the wind Leitrim stole in for a ninth minute goal when the outstanding Keith Beirne scored from close range.
Carlow hit back immediately and Jamie Clarke converted a penalty after he had been fouled himself. The home side tacked on four points in succession and looked to be in control. Darragh Foley and Colm Hulton were pulling the Carlow strings. Both picked off two points each while Ryan O'Rourke raised a white flag for Leitrim.
The full-forward went one better just before the interval when he ran in close to the Carlow by-line and made space for himself before planting the ball in the back of the Carlow net. In reply, Foley’s free gave the home side a narrow 1-09 to 2-05 interval lead.
Leitrim brought a renewed energy into their second half performance and the Carlow players frequently found themselves without space or time to make decisions. The visitors had a goal disallowed for a square ball when Conor Reynolds finger-tipped in from close range.
A wonderfully executed effort from a side-line ball by Beirne levelled the game and the same player followed up to nudge Leitrim in front from play. At different stages in the second half Eoghan Ruth for Carlow and Leitrim’s David Bruen picked up black cards.
It made little difference to the trend of the contest with Carlow’s only score of the half coming from a Foley free on 57 minutes. Hulton was unlucky to see an effort just go outside the left-hand post when a three-pointer was badly needed.
As the game went into the closing stages Beirne with three, Jack Heslin and O’Rourke with one each helped to push Leitrim to victory in front of a surprisingly big away crowd. The home side persevered and Hulton and Jordan Morrissey were both denied by Leitrim keeper, Darren Maxwell.
In the end, however, the league points went where they deserved to go.
Leitrim: Darren Maxwell; Mark Diffley, Donal Casey, Conor Reynolds; Conor Farrell, David Bruen, James Rooney; Pearce Dolan, Donal Wrynn (0-01); Darragh Rooney, Keith Beirne (1-09 2-sls 5fs), Mark Plunkett; Tom Prior, Ryan O'Rourke (1-03), Domhnaill Flynn.
Subs: Jack Heslin (0-01) for Farrell (53), Riordan O’Rourke for D. Rooney (59), Paul Keaney for Plunkett (63), Ciaran Cullen for Bruen (66), Conor Cullen for Prior (66).
Carlow: Ciaran Cunningham; Mikey Bambrick, Shane Buggy, Dara Curran; Jordan Morrissey, Darragh O’Brien (0-01), Conor Doyle (0-01); Murtough Ware, Sean Bambrick; Eoghan Ruth, Jamie Clarke (1-01 1-00 pen), Josh Moore; Conor Crowley, Darragh Foley (0-04fs), Colm Hulton (0-03 1mark).
Subs: Niall Hickey for Ware (52), Ross Dunphy for Buggy (51).
Referee: John Ryan (Cork).