It was late heartbreak for the Wicklow footballers, after danger man Ryan O’Rourke netted a last-minute goal to help Leitrim on their way to victory in Aughrim on Sunday afternoon.
An early Mark Doyle goal, as well as late scores from goalkeeper Mark Jackson and Conor McGraynor, seemed to help Wicklow on their way to two consecutive wins in a game they controlled for large portions.
However, despite John Evans’ men dominating possession for much of the proceedings, they were made to pay for a largely static and overindulgent second-half performance by O’Rourke, who grabbed his third goal in two games to hand Terry Hyland’s men the two points.
A week after bagging a dramatic — but deserved — win over Waterford in Dungarvan, it was Wicklow who made a positive start to a cagey opening half in Aughrim.
The first score of the game came 14 minutes in. Anthony McLoughlin charged towards the Leitrim by-line, before cutting the ball into the path of the awaiting Mark Doyle.
The Rathnew man had the simplest of tasks, poking the ball home to give Wicklow the perfect start and a one goal to no score lead.
Ryan O’Rourke got Leitrim’s first score of the game, but Wicklow were in charge of the visitors. Darragh Fitzgerald and Mark Kenny fed the ball into and through the half-forward and full-forward lines, while Ross O’Brien and David Devereux offered steel at the other end of the pitch to restrict Leitrim to occasional half-chances.
Mark Jackson opened his account with a free to restore Wicklow’s three-point advantage at 1-01 to 0-01, before Darren Hayden split the posts to give the Garden a cushion.
Patrick O’Connor exchanged a give-and-go with Devereux to put Wicklow further ahead before Domhnaill Flynn put the ball over the bar bring Leitrim back to within four points.
As the half progressed, Leitrim began to pile more and more pressure on a Wicklow side that was finding it difficult to carve out chances, with Hayden best demonstrating this by putting wide following an extended period of possession.
With the clock ticking into additional time, as Domhnaill Flynn and Shane Moran reduced the gap to just a point at half-time.
Momentum was on Leitrim’s side at the close of the first-period, momentum that they carried into the second. Damien Moran and substitute Evan Sweeney both pointed to put Leitrim in front five minutes after the restart, before goalkeeper Diarmuid McKiernan saved well with his feet to deny Theo Smith a goal following clever build-up play on the edge of the D.
Shane Moran showed great awareness to feed Ryan O’Rourke with a short free, before the latter put the ball over the bar to push the visitors into a two-point lead, only for Mark Jackson to keep the deficit to a minimum with a free.
Jackson slotted another free to bring the two sides level with 15 minutes remaining. Wicklow found themselves in front for the first time in 17 minutes soon after through substitute Chris O’Brien.
Up the other end, and Ryan O’Rourke made no mistake from a free to draw Leitrim level, before Ray Mulvey put them in front as the clock ticked into a breathless final five minutes.
While Wicklow were often times guilty of overplaying and overindulging with handpasses in the final third, Mark Jackson provided reliable service from set-pieces.
The Baltinglass and county goalkeeper split the posts with a 45′, and substitute Conor McGraynor took little time to impose himself on proceedings with a long-range point to put Wicklow in front with 69 minutes on the clock, only for their hearts to be broken by Leitrim’s main man in injury-time.
In a carbon copy of Mark Doyle’s goal for Wicklow, Gary Plunket charged towards the by-line, before cutting the ball back on a plate for Ryan O’Rourke to steer a shot into an empty net to all but hand the visitors the win.
It was a gutter-punch for Wicklow, and one which they could not come back from. Patrick O’Connor was sent-off for a second yellow card, before Shane Moran and Gary Plunkett put the nail in the Garden coffin with a point each in the dying stages, sealing the win for Leitrim.
Wicklow won’t have long to recover from Sunday’s loss, as they host Limerick in Joule Park next Sunday, 10th February. Meanwhile, Leitrim will go in search for three wins out of three when they take on Antrim.
WicklowNews Player of the Match: Ryan O’Rourke.
Wicklow: M. Jackson; O. Manning, R. O’Brien, J. Snell; D. Devereux, S. Mooney, D. Fitzgerald; P. O’Toole, D. Healy; D. Hayden, A. McLoughlin, T. Smith; M. Kenny, M. Doyle, P. O’Connor.
Replacements: C. O’Brien (for A. McLoughlin), C. Healy (for D. Hayden), G. Murphy (for M. Doyle), C. McGraynor (for P. O’Toole), S. Duffy (for T. Smith).
Scorers: M. Jackson (0-05; 0-03f; 0-02 45′), M. Doyle (1-01; 0-01f), D. Hayden (0-02), D. Healy (0-01), C. McGraynor (0-01), P. O’Connor (0-01), C. O’Brien (0-01).
Leitrim: D. McKiernan; M. McWeeney, P. Maguire, A. Flynn; S. Quinn, M. Plunkett, R. Mulvey; S. Moran, P. Dolan; S. McWeeney, D. Flynn, J. Heslin; D. Moran, D. McGovern, R. O’Rourke.
Replacements: E. Sweeney (for D. Moran), G. Plunkett (for D. McGovern), C. McGloin (for D. Flynn), D. Rooney (for J. Heslin),
Scorers: R. O’Rourke (1-03; 0-01f), D. Moran (0-03; 0-01f), D. Flynn (0-02), S. Moran (0-02), J. Heslin (0-01), P. Dolan (0-01), R. Mulvey (0-01), P. Maguire (0-01), G. Plunkett (0-01), E. Sweeney (0-01).