Leitrim’s lovely Croke Park dream ended by Derry
Terry Hyland’s team do not build on strong start as Derry claim Division Four title
Derry captain Christopher McKaigue lifts the Division Four trophy. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Derry 0-20 Leitrim 0-16
For a while there, the thought lingered that Leitrim might actually win a game at Croke Park.
In just their fifth ever match at GAA headquarters, and without a win from the previous four, the tiny Connacht county opened the Allianz league Division 4 final at breakneck pace and hinted at making history.
Derry, slumming it in the lowest tier having been Division 1 finalists as recently as 2014, trailed by 0-6 to 0-3 after 17 minutes. Leitrim had also kicked five wides in that period.
Suddenly, the prospect of Micheal McWeeney lifting silverware on Leitrim’s behalf in the Hogan Stand didn’t seem so unlikely after all.
Unfortunately for Terry Hyland’s side, the dream turned to ashes and they will have to console themselves with promotion as Derry steadied themselves and made off with the silverware.
With three points still between the teams after 24 minutes, the Oak Leaf County finished out the half with six points in a row to lead by 0-10 to 0-7 and ultimately beat Leitrim for the second time this term with four points to spare.
Derry, with seven of Slaughtneil’s 2017 All-Ireland club final team in their lineup, found scores easier to come by from late in the first-half and never led by less than two points in the second-half.
Four points in a row between the 43rd and and 50th minutes from the 2013 Division 2 winners moved them 0-16 to 0-10 clear.
Man of the Match Shane McGuigan scored three of those four points and was terrific in the second-half for Derry, finishing with six points in total.
Leitrim, whose calling card this season has been strong finishes, refused to throw in the towel and pressed for a goal late on but to no avail. Still, Roscommon have been warned ahead of their May 12th Connacht SFC summit at Dr Hyde Park.
Derry: T Mallon; B Rogers, K McKaigue, P McNeill; M McEvoy, C McKaigue (0-2), N Keenan; E Bradley (0-2), C McAtamney; P Cassidy (0-1), E Lynn (0-2), C Doherty; S McGuigan (0-6, 0-1 free, 0-1 mark), R Bell (0-4, 0-1 free), C Bradley (0-2, 0-1 free).
Subs: B Heron for Lynn (50 mins), N Toner (0-1) for Bell (50’), J Rocks for Doherty (59’), E McGill for K McKaigue (64’), R Dougan for C Bradley (71’).
Leitrim: C McCrann; A Flynn, M McWeeney (0-1), P Maguire (0-1); R Mulvey (0-1), S McWeeney, C McGloin; M Plunkett (0-1), S Moran (0-1); S Quinn, R O’Rourke (0-6, 0-4 free), D McGovern (0-1); D Flynn (0-1 free), E Mulligan (0-1), E Sweeney (0-2, 0-1 mark).
Subs: P Dolan for McGloin (32 mins), D Rooney for Mulligan (45’), D Moran for S Moran (50’), C Reynolds for A Flynn (60’), J Heslin for D Flynn (65’).
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare)