A very hard-working Leitrim side gave Donegal hurlers a serious test in the first 35 minutes in Avant Money Páirc Sean MacDiarmada this afternoon in their Round 3 Nicky Rackard championship game. The Donegal men, however, scored 1-11 in the first fifteen minutes after the break to move the game beyond Leitrim and the fourth quarter was largely a dead rubber as Mickey McCann’s team managed the game to a successful conclusion.
It was tit-for-tat early on with Donegal playing catch-up until Diarmuid Kelleher goaled for Leitrim to put them 1-3 to 0-2 ahead. Leitrim played with great passion and huge work rate and while Donegal reeled off three in succession to close the gap James McNabola found the net to restore the four point gap. Declan Coulter’s unerring accuracy from the dead-ball and an impressive Bernard Lafferty were keeping Donegal in the hunt but matters took a turn for the worse when Ronan McDermott received a straight red and Kelleher netted his second to leave it 3-5 to 0-10 at the break and the Leitrim side left to a standing ovation from their supporters.
Scéal eile sa dara leath as Donegal moved up several gears and the wheels loosened on the Leitrim chariot. Gerry Gilmore, quiet in the first half, burst into life in the third quarter hitting five points from play in the first twelve minutes of the second half. The way Donegal started the half they already looked like running out winners but a double blow for Leitrim added to the home side’s woes. Richie Ryan was hauled down for a penalty, converted by Declan Coulter, which also seen the offending Leitrim corner back Martin Feeney receive his second yellow. It was now 14 players each. At the second half water-break Donegal led by seven 1-21 to 3-8 and a late goal by Ben Murray left the final score 4-10 to 1-27.
Donegal travel to Healey Park, Omagh to take on Tyrone in the semi-final in two week’s time while Leitrim meet Armagh in the quarterfinal with the winners going on to play away Mayo.
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