He was in Ruislip to see the action at first-hand a few weeks back and now, as the date for our Connacht semi-final meeting with Leitrim approaches, I’m delighted to welcome Roger Milla back into the guest slot to provide a few pointers about Sunday’s opposition.
The current Leitrim team are a very young outfit and this showed in their performance in Ruislip two weeks ago. In the initial twenty minutes of the game they were susceptible to the high ball and were it not for London ’s profligacy with frees and sideline balls they would have fallen much farther behind.
Emlyn Mulligan is without doubt the star man on the team and they work very hard in the forward line to feed the ball to him. He works very well in tight situations to make space for himself and it was his scoring ability that kept them in touch in that early period. In the closing period he was directing the comeback which was to lead to their win and I think it is vital that Mayo cut off the supply to him.
At one point during the second half the Leitrim forwards actually had the ball in the London square but they worked the ball back to it give to the advancing Mulligan who pointed from the half-forward line. This lack of confidence amongst the other forwards (or perhaps you could call it their deference to Mulligan) is something that the Mayo management should look at.
Although Maguire in the backs is a fine player I think they are weak here and another team would have capitalised much more than London did. From my vantage point behind the goal I saw the panic with which high balls were greeted and the hesitancy with which they were dealt.
Another problem they did not deal with enough was the long kick pass from the London half-back line. If Paul Brennan did not cut it out then more often than not it led to a London chance (although quite often these went wide…). James Horan will have noticed this as it was one of the things that stuck with me in Ruislip.
Leitrim’s spirit and morale I thought was very good indeed and I am sure it can only be boosted by getting out of London unscathed. Even though they were a goal down at half-time and only actually equalised very late in the game they closed it out professionally and worked very hard in the last quarter. The management was not afraid to hand a championship debut to young substitute Shane Moran who paid them back with an assist and then the equaliser. I would not be surprised to see him start on Sunday.
Leitrim were quite physical against London and certainly out-muscled the Thames-siders. This was most evident in the final period of the game, showing their superior fitness levels and also the quality they brought off the bench like former Longford man Enda Williams who scored and played a vital part in their win.
On the whole I think that Leitrim will kick on from this and present a serious challenge to Mayo this weekend. My advice to the Mayo management would be to make sure that Mulligan is isolated and that they test the backs as often as possible with the knowledge that Mayo’s superior firepower to that of London would yield a better return. The Ridge men now come to Castlebar with the pressure off but having seen them up close in London I would expect the Green and Red to progress.