Down 4-18 Leitrim 0-9
There was never even a hint of a shock at Páirc Esler in Newry yesterday as Down stamped their class from the outset on another chastening day for Leitrim football.
For Leitrim, for the second year in a row, there was an all too predictable end to their championship campaign.
Down, trying to bounce back from their replay loss to Tyrone in Ulster, will have gleaned little from yesterday’s rout, although manager James McCartan was pleased with the way his defence manned up after coughing up five goals in the two games against Mickey Harte’s men.
“The fact we didn’t concede a goal was pleasing. We coughed up one good goal chance in the first half which I was disappointed with but I thought the goalkeeper pulled off a fantastic save and in the second half we put more emphasis on what Leitrim were going to score than what we would score so I was happy with what we conceded,” said McCartan.
He was probably pleased as well with the big score chalked up – all six forwards hit the range before the break – but any assessment of that potency would have to be tempered with the paucity of the opposition.
Last year Leitrim fell to a record 27-point defeat in the qualifiers to Armagh in a game where they conceded eight goals and it was feared for a long time yesterday that hammering would be surpassed.
Manager Sean Hagan, in his first term in charge, had to make seven changes from the side which lost to Roscommon but the gulf in class was undisputable. "We needed a break in the first half and we knew we needed to be in the game at half-time but we didn't help our cause with letting them get goals from our own mistakes. It was self-destruct," said Hagan.
“With the numbers that are involved in Leitrim it is going to be exceptionally difficult to make progress in the championship. Being realistic about it, our Division Four campaign was our All-Ireland. We are punching against our own weight in there.
“We will analyse it over the next few weeks, I will chat to my management team and we will make a collective decision in the weeks ahead,” he added.
His side did not help themselves in the opening half and they were on a damage limitation exercise when they trailed by 2-10 to 0-4 at the break.
Conor Laverty, who finished with 2-4 from play, pounced for the opening goal after nine minutes when he reacted smartest when Mark Poland's fisted point effort came back off the post.
Laverty helped create the second goal with Benny Coulter for Niall Madine 12 minutes from the break, and he got his second of the game after 42 minutes t when he fisted to the net.
Substitute Damien Turley sent Down on their way to a record win in the qualifiers when he got their fourth goal going into the final quarter but Leitrim battled to the end and kept the score down.
DOWN: M Cunningham (0-1, 45); D O'Hagan, N Donnelly, D McCartan; K McKernan (0-1), C Garvey, C McCartan; D Gordon (0-1), P Turley; B Coulter (0-2), C Maginn (0-1), M Poland (0-2); D O'Hare (0-4, three frees), N Madine (1-0), C Laverty (2-4). Subs: L Doyle (0-2, frees) for O'Hare (40mins), C Toner for P Turley (43mins), E McCartan for Madine (44mins), D Turley (1-0) for Coulter (50mins), O Costello for D McCartan (51mins), A Carr for Garvey (55mins).
LEITRIM: P Farrelly; A Wynne, D Wrynn, B McWeeney; B Prior, Gary Reynolds (0-1), S McWeeney (0-1); D Sweeney, D Moran; A McLoughlin, E Mulligan (0-5, four frees), G Hickey; R Cox, R Lowe (0-1), K Conlon. Subs: F Clancy for McLoughlin (35 mins), M McWeeney for Moran (44 mins), N Moore (0-1) for Lowe (57 mins) C Conlon for Cox (58 mins), A Hickey for G Hickey (64 mins).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).