Mayo surrendered their Connacht junior crown to Leitrim on Wednesday evening in Charlestown at the end of an entertaining and sometimes puzzling game as both sides at various stages gave up big leads to let the other team back into it. Mayo made a number of changes to the team named to start earlier in the week - with the introduction of James Carr into the starting line up one that many Mayo supporters were keeping their eye on.
Sean McLoughlin's side ripped into the their opponents from the throw in and with 19 minutes gone they were six points to the good and should have been a few more if they had taken their goal chances. Mark Ronaldson who showed his senior inter-county class and experience all evening, got the scroreboard moving with a well taken score inside the first minute. That was followed by a Cormac Gordan effort - after he broke to collect a quickly taken free on the run. Moy Davitts Brian Heneghan - who was another that impressed throughout for Mayo got the first of his four points of the day with a neatly taken effort to put Mayo three clear with just five minutes gone. Either side of that score Mayo should have hit the net, with both Heneghan and Carr having efforts that flew just past the post after some neat build up play.
Leitrim thought they have the registered the first goal of the game six minutes in when Brian Leydon up from centre-half-back palmed the ball to the net, but their celebrations were short lived - with the goal being ruled out for a square ball. They finally registered their first score of the day when Donal Flynn fired over one from distance just before the 15 minute mark. Mayo responded with points from team captain Micheal Forde, Heneghan and Ronaldson to lead 0-7 to 0-1 with 11 minutes left in the half.
But, Leitrim were only about to get going, reeling off 1-6 with out reply before the turn around. Conor Gallagher, Cathal McCrann and Flynn all kicked fine scores to close the gap back to three points and five minutes from the break the game was all square. James Campbell broke unchecked from his wing-back slot and he was the last man on the end of a flowing move that saw him clip the ball over the advancing Mattie Flanagan in the Mayo goal and hit the back of the net. Leitrim added on three more scores from Keith Keegan, Flynn, and McCrann to lead a shell-shocked Mayo 1-7 to 0-7 at the short whistle.
The second half opened with Ronaldson cutting the gap back to two points inside the opening 60 seconds, that was quickly followed by effort from Leitrim's Wyane McKeown. Scores from Ronaldson and James Kelly put just one between the sides with 23 minutes left on the clock, but Leitrim were about to hit a second purple patch where they outscored Mayo by 0-6 to 0-0 over the next ten minutes, Gary Plunkett hit three in that run with McCrann, McKeown and Niall McGovern adding on the others to put Leitrim into a seven point lead on a score of 0-10 to 1-14. The game looked to be gone for Mayo, but they dug in and didn't give up, kicking the next six points of the game with Ronaldson landing five of them and Brian Henaghan the other score in that run. Mayo could have had a goal in that burst too, but Robert Holian saw his effort well saved by Phillip Farrelly in the Leitrim goal. At the end of that scoring run, Mayo trailed by just one with two minutes to go in normal time. But they couldn't find the saving score to force the tie and in injury time, Leitrim added two points from frees from the boot of McCrann to seal the win and claim the Connacht title.
Mayo: M Ronaldson (0-9,6f ), B Heneghan (0-4 ), M Forde (0-1 ), J Kelly (0-1 ), C Gordon (0-1 )
Leitrim: C McCrann (0-5, 5f ), G Plunkett (0-3 ), D Flynn (0-1 ), J Campbell (1-0 ), W McKeown (0-2 ), C Gallagher (0-1 ), K Keegan (0-1 )
Mayo: M Flanagan; K Lynch, P O'Malley, C Walsh; J Kelly, R Neary, B Duffy; C Gordon, P Collins; M Ronaldson, M Forde, K Gibbons; R O'Donoghue, J Carr, B Heneghan. Subs: S Nallen, E McGrath, D Walsh, R Holian.
Leitrim: P Farrelly; J Mitchell, A Armstrong, J Cassidy; J Campbell, B Leydon, N Plunkett; D Flynn, K Keegan; C Gallagher, N McGovern, N McSweeney; G Plunkett, C McCrann, W McKeown. Subs: O Madden, K Beirne, C McCauley
Ref: J Molloy (Galway )