No room for complacency as Leitrim visit Corrigan

Tailteann Cup First Round

Antrim v Leitrim

Corrigan Park – Sunday 1-00pm

As the Tailteann Cup gets underway this weekend with the meeting of Antrim and Leitrim at Corrigan Park the Saffron Gael takes a look back at the last few meetings between Sunday’s opponents.

There is certainly no room for complacency as you can see as we look back at the last two meetings between Antrim and Leitrim and Antrim will need to be at their best if they are to advance.

Last year these sides met in the inaugural Tailteann meeting in Carrick on Shannon with the division 3 Saffrons expected to advance against a Leitrim team who were playing their football in division 4.

It didn’t quite work out that way however and it was Leitrim who out played the visitors to advance to the next round, a game that marked the end of Enda McGinley reign as Antrim manager.

Tailteann Cup 28 May ’22 Carrick on Shannon

Leitrim 2-14 Antrim 1-12

Goals from Shane Moran and Jack Heslin’s ensured victory for Leitrim in the Tailteann Cup at Carrick-on-Shannon and sent favourites Antrim home empty-handed.

After Odhrán Eastwood put Antrim ahead with an opening minute point, Leitrim hit back with three on the trot during the next seven minutes with Keith Beirne getting two and David Bruen chipping in with one.

Antrim’s Dermot McAleese fired over prior to the break when he might have had a goal, which left Leitrim with a comfortable 1-10 to 0-4 interval lead.

Antrim reduced the deficit after the restart when full-back Peter Healy – switched up front at half-time by the Saffron’s manager Enda McGinley – hit a 38th-minute point.

But two minutes later Heslin palmed home a Leitrim goal, which certainly put Andy Moran’s men in the driving seat and Pearce Dolan stretched Leitrim’s advantage with another point.

Antrim raised their game over the next 14 minutes and reduced the deficit to four points. In this purple patch for the visitors, Peter Healy raced through the Leitrim rear guard to fire home a well-taken goal, while Shivers added two points, with McAleese and McCann (free) getting one each.

A late, late Leitrim flurry in response saw the home side’s Mark Plunkett and Beirne (free) whip over a point apiece, while Antrim’s Shivers, who was also dismissed for a second yellow offence in this period, pointed prior to seeing his second yellow.

Antrim: Michael Byrne; Eoghan McCabe, Peter Healy (1-01), Patrick McCormick; Marc Jordan, Declan Lynch, Dermot McAleese (0-02); Kevin Small, Conor Stewart; Patrick McBride, Ryan Murray, Paddy McAleer; James Gribbin, Pat Shivers (0-04), Odhrán Eastwood. Subs: Barry McCormick for P. McCormick (46); Conor Murray for Gribbin (48); Ruairi McCann 0 – 2 f for McAleer (49).

Leitrim: Brendan Flynn; Paddy Maguire, Mark Diffley, Conor Reynolds; Jack Heslin (1-02), David Bruen (0-1), James Rooney; Pearce Dolan (0-01), Donal Wrynn; Cillian McGloin (0-01), Keith Beirne (0-06, 3f); Shane Moran (1-00); Domhnaill Flynn, Evan Sweeney (0-01); Riordan O’Rourke. Subs: Jordan Reynolds (0-01) for McGloin (37); Emlyn Mulligan for O’Rourke (47); Mark Plunkett (0-01) for Heslin (53); Conor Farrell for Flynn (58); Darragh Rooney for Sweeney (67).

The same sides met in Belfast back in May 2021 in the Allianz NFL Division 4 North and the Saffron looked to be on their way to an easy win when they led by 11 points at one stage but were thankful for a late Tomas McCann point to get them over the line

Allianz National Football League Division Four North

Antrim topped the Division Four North section of the Allianz National Football League with a slender 2-17-1-19 win over Leitrim – but were perhaps fortunate after seeing an eleven-point second half lead wilt on a blazing hot afternoon in Corrigan Park.  

The Saffrons were in control through Conor Stewart’s first half goal and Conor Murray added a second after the break.

But Leitrim substitute Evan Sweeney landed three points on the spin and then found the net to give his side renewed hope.

Terry Hyland’s side would restore parity twice late-on and it took the trusted boots of veterans Paddy Cunningham and Tomas McCann to seal a late win for the hosts, and in the process protect their winning League run.

Antrim have had a mixed league season under new manager Andy McEntee. The Meath man came into the job at the start of 2023 and has overseen a major rebuild after a number of players departed the panel.

Antrim have mixed the good with the bad in division 3. The good being a one point win over Cavan at Corrigan Park. Cavan went on to win Division 3 while Antrim were eight points up against Fermanagh at the same venue but lost by a point to the Erne County, who finished second in the league.

A meltdown in Mullingar was their worst result of the season and Andy McEntee was at pains to explain to explain that defeat but they did recover to beat Cavan  before losing to Longford in a dead rubber in their final game.

Consistency has been the Saffrons problem but they did retain their Division 3 status and before the season began I saw that as success for Antrim given the turnover in personnel.

A good run in the the Tailteann Cup would give Andy McEntee something to build on for next year and with the format changed from 2022 his side are guaranteed at least three games with a trip to Wexford and a meeting with Fermanagh at a neutral venue to follow Sunday’s opener.

A win over Leitrim is vital if Antrim are to progress from their group but the Connaught minnow’s won’t roll over easily and McEntee’s side need to be at their best but if they are, they should start their campaign with a win.

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