Leitrim taking no chances as they set off on New York mission in Connacht Championship
The only major absentee is Brian McDonald
Leitrim’s joint managers Brian Breen and George Dugdale celebrate winning the FBD Football League final at Markievicz Park, Sligo, in January. Photograph: Inpho
Playing New York in the All-Ireland football championship is like dipping into a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. What is certain is Leitrim aren’t taking any chances, and travel out later today with a near full-strength squad for Sunday’s Connacht championship opener at New York’s Gaelic Park.
Indeed the trip is almost perfectly timed as co-managers Barney Breen and George Dugdale welcome back several first-choice players from injury.
Goalkeeper Cathal McCrann (broken arm), forward Adrian Croal (concussion), defender Kevin Conlon (hamstring) and midfielder Wayne McKeon (ankle) were among those ruled out in recent weeks, but Breen confirmed yesterday all four would be travelling.
The only major absentee is Brian McDonald, who has had surgery on a Gilmore’s Groin problem, while Cian Reynolds is rated as “50-50” because of a hamstring injury.
“Brian had surgery a few weeks ago on a groin problem, has only started back doing very light training now, and won’t be ready for the game,” said Breen.
“And we’ll leave it until close to the match to make the final call on Cian. It is touch and go if he’ll play or not, but his hamstring is still a bit tight.”
Two years ago, Mayo pulled off an almost miraculous escape from New York, before Sligo emerged last year as far more convincing winners.
The added problem for Leitrim is with a smaller panel they effectively need to peak for this one, and then hope for the best.
“Let’s be clear, if we underestimate New York at all we’ll be in trouble. We are not like teams like Galway and Mayo who can stagger their championship preparation ahead of a game like this.
“From what I have been hearing from my contacts over there, they are a lot stronger than previous years and have been putting in a serious amount of work.
“If we get the win then great, but we are treating this as we would any other championship game.”
Despite winning the FBD Connacht Football League in January, Leitrim couldn’t quite sustain their progress and so failed to secure promotion from Division Four – ending up fifth, four points shy of their target.
“If it means it is a learning curve for us as managers and the players, that’s a good thing,” said Breen
Both McCrann and Croal suffered their injuries against Clare in their National Football Leagu encounter, the goalkeeper breaking his arm in a fall, while Croal suffered his concussion after getting accidentally kneed in the head by an opponent.