Orange Blossom head for lovely Leitrim

July 8, 2013

All-Ireland Qualifiers: Leitrim v Armagh in Carrick-on-shannon @ 5pm

A fortnight ago the fortunes of Armagh and Leitrim were in direct contrast to what they are now as they face each other in the second round of the Qualifiers. Armagh, smarting from  their Breffni Park  defeat, were preparing to face Wicklow, Leitrim, in everyone’s books, were a shoe in for a place in the Connacht Final as minnows London stood in their way.

Leitrim were surprisingly held to a draw by London but would not underestimate their opponents the second day out and win their place in the final against Mayo. Armagh managed to annihilate a woeful Wicklow 2-21 to 0-2 while London held on for a single point win over Leitrim who came up just short having trailed the Exiles by a whopping 14 points at half-time.

Armagh manager Paul Grimley announced four changes to the team to face Wicklow from the side that started against Cavan James Morgan, Brendan Donaghy, Ethan Rafferty and Eugene McVerry replace Declan McKenna, Finian Moriarty, Ciaron O’Hanlon and Stefan Forker and those changes certainly worked a treat. While there is no need to get carried away by the Armagh performance as Wicklow were a beaten side inside a quarter of an hour as they trailed 2-7 to 0-0 the explosive start from Armagh contained some very good passages of football. All starting forwards for Armagh got on the score sheet, indeed it is a while since Armagh produced 10 different scorers in a championship match. As I said after the Cavan match the only positive that could be gleamed from that display was that 1-11 had been scored off poor quality and a limited supply of ball.

Provided that Armagh are injury free the same starting 15 for the last match will be given their managers vote of confidence to start in Carrick- on-Shannon. The defensive looked very solid and held Wicklow scoreless in the second half. The deployment of the Captain as the sweeper and moving Mark Shields to half back and James Morgan back in the corner left them looking a very solid unit.

Leitrim once they lost the services of their Captain Emyln Mulligan in the first half through injury, having gambled on his fitness to last, totally lost their way once he departed. Credit must go to them  for their second half display with an 8 point haul from Kevin Conlon and a goal from James Glancy not enough as they lost out 2-11 to 1-13. With their place in the Connacht decider gone how will the ”Ridge County” react as they face a blossoming Armagh in the Wild Rose County.

London, winning their way to the Connacht final has been the major shock of this year’s Championship. Given the performances of Saturday’s opponents in their last outings a Leitrim victory would be a major shocker. The Orchard County to have their name in the hat for the third round qualifiers with a bit to spare following their sojourn into the West.