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Leitrim V Offaly


FROM the dizzy heights of floodlit Croke Park and a crowd of around 82,000 it was back to St Mary's Park, Cloone yesterday where the crowd was about 80,000 smaller for the meeting of Leitrim and Offaly in Division 2.

This is a lovely, almost quaint ground set in a hollow surrounded by trees but the picturesque aspect of Cloone will not be fondly remembered by Offaly. After relegation last spring this was to be the starting point for a quick return to the top flight but it was the worst possible result for them when they lost out by 0-11 points to 0-12 to a mad-for-action home team. 

 Leitrim manager Dessie Dolan is currently out of action through illness so selector Pat Prior stood in for him yesterday and what a job he did. The difference between the sides was simple enough - Leitrim wanted to win this game far more than their opponents. Granted the Cloone venue, where the fans can almost hear the players breathing, bestows a solid advantage on the home team but still Offaly were caught out badly.

They simply were not ready for the drive and passion of the Leitrim players in the first half and should have been further than three points behind at the break. The Duignan brothers, Ciarán at full-forward and Michael at midfield, orchestrated the Leitrim performance but it was the tight marking of the Leitrim backs that set the tone for the game.

Offaly have lots of talented forwards but you need more than talent to beat a sticky Leitrim backline. Throw in razor-sharp tackling from players like Barry McWeeney and Barry Prior and suddenly the expression 'talented forwards' has a hollow ring about it. But Leitrim did not shock Offaly through negative play - far from it. There were points scored by Ciarán Duignan and Michael Foley yesterday that were as good as anything we saw in Croke Park the night before. But because this was Cloone and they play for Leitrim the rave notices that Connolly, Cavanagh and Mulgrew got in Croker will pass the Leitrim lads by. Yet they and Cloone are as much part of the GAA as the stars and the glamorous stadium.

Article written by Eugene McGee and published in the Irish Independent.