LEITRIM de­feated Wicklow by 10 points.

Not Dublin, not Mayo, not Meath, not Sligo, not Clare, not Ar­magh. Leitrim. With all due re­spect to Leitrim, it’s Leitrim.

Leitrim kicked 18 scores and had an­other eight wides giv­ing Wicklow at least 26 kick outs.

It’s not clear whether Wicklow won any of those kick-outs, Leitrim were ut­terly dom­i­nant.

The ball was camped in the Wicklow half for most of the match, the only time Wicklow re­gained pos­ses­sion was when a Leitrim at­tack broke down.

Los­ing the mid­field bat­tle has been a fea­ture for Wicklow this year.

An­other com­mon fea­ture has been the poor scor­ing re­turn from the for­ward line. In the four matches to date they’ve scored 2-34, an av­er­age of 10 points per game. That won’t win too many matches.

Seanie Fur­long can do well but when he has a cou­ple of play­ers for com­pany it’s fairly dif­fi­cult.

Out­side of him there isn’t much of a threat, Tommy Kelly will surely take a cou­ple of matches to get back to match sharp­ness while John McGrath has been in poor form.

The de­fence had been fairly rea­son­able but the Leitrim for­wards looked good on Sun­day. Ciaran Hy­land kept his man quiet and Paul Cun­ning­ham had a good first half but there was very lit­tle else to praise.

This is hard to take. Per­haps it was the en­thu­si­asm com­ing from the new spon­sor­ship deal and the mur­murs that the panel was as strong as it could be that makes this de­feat so galling, that some peo­ple went to the match with a sense of hope.

That en­thu­si­asm and hope has been shat­tered.

Ryan O’Rourke had the ball in the Wicklow net af­ter only 43 sec­onds. It was a quick Leitrim at­tack that had the Wicklow de­fence at sixes and sevens and the Leitrim for­wards had the time and space to do as they wished.

Mark Plun­kett’s ini­tial shot was saved by Robert Lam­bert but O’Rourke was on hand to cap­i­talise on the re­bound.

The day got slightly bet­ter be­fore get­ting much worse. It was 1-01 to three points af­ter 15 min­utes, Dean Healy, John McGrath and a Tommy Kelly free with the points while Em­lyn Mul­li­gan kicked an out­ra­geous score from an al­most im­pos­si­ble an­gle for Leitrim’s open­ing white flag.

That was as good as it got though for Wicklow, who didn’t score for the next twenty min­utes. In that time Leitrim had five more points on the board to take con­trol of the match.

David Booth­man made a lazy tackle to con­cede a free that Mul­li­gan con­verted, Bren­dan Gal­lagher bat­tles his way past a cou­ple of chal­lenges to fist over the sec­ond, O’Rourke added two points and Mark Plun­kett kicked one over from a tough an­gle to make it 1-06 to 3 points in the 33rd minute.

Seanie Fur­long broke the Wicklow drought with a free from just in­side the 45 but Leitrim added two more points in in­jury time to go into the dress­ing rooms with a seven point lead.

Wicklow never got much closer than that in the sec­ond half and Leitrim had the lux­ury of bring­ing on Damien Mo­ran to kick three points in his twenty five min­utes on the pitch.

Mark Plun­kett scored a cou­ple of great points in the sec­ond half, one of which was a free from the out­side of his boot out near the side line.

The only bright spot for Wicklow was a good Seanie Fur­long point when he beat three or four chal­lenges to cre­ate space to shoot.

Both teams fin­ished the game with four­teen men as Stephen Kelly re­ceived a sec­ond yel­low in the 60th minute and Em­lyn Mul­li­gan was dis­missed in a sim­i­lar fash­ion min­utes later.

Water­ford are the opponents next week and if the per­for­mance lev­els aren’t im­proved dras­ti­cally it will be a long Spring and a very short Sum­mer.

Scor­ers – Leitrim: Ryan O’Rourke 1-04; Mark Plun­kett (2f), Em­lyn Mul­li­gan (2f), Damien Mo­ran 0-03 each; Keith Beirne 0-02; Bren­dan Gal­lagher, Dean McGov- ern 0-01 each.

Wicklow: Tommy Kelly (2f), Seanie Fur­long (2f) 0-03 each; Dean Healy, Rory Finn, John McGrath, An­thony McLough­lin 0-01 each.

Wicklow: Robert Lam­bert; Ciaran Hy­land, Paul Cun­ning­ham (St Judes), Jamie Snell; Dar­ren Hay­den, Dean Healy, Martin Cullen; Rory Finn, Ross O’Brien; David Booth­man, Stephen Kelly, Mark Kenny; Tommy Kelly, Seanie Fur­long, John McGrath. Subs: Eoin Murtagh for David Booth­man (HT); An­thony McLough­lin for Mark Kenny (HT); Marc Len­non for John McGrath (50 mins); John Crowe for Martin Cullen (54 mins); Paul Cun­ning­ham (Bray) for Rory Finn (67 mins).

Leitrim: Philip Far­relly; Matthew Mur­phy, Alan Arm­strong, Fionn Car­ney; James Rooney, Donal Wrynn, Oisin Mad­den; Shane Mo­ran, Mark Plun­kett; Gary Plun­kett, Dean McGovern, Ryan O’Rourke; Emyln Mul­li­gan, Keith Beirne, Bren­dan Gal­lagher. Subs: Damien Mo­ran for Keith Beirne (50 mins); Ciallin Canning for Shane Mo­ran (58 mins). Ref­eree: Fer­gal Smyth (Of­faly)

Wicklow’s Dean Healy launches a shot to­wards the Leitrim posts.

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