Keith Beirne scored 1-10 for Leitrim in their Allianz Football League Division 4 victory over Waterford.
Keith Beirne scored 1-10 for Leitrim in their Allianz Football League Division 4 victory over Waterford.

Allianz FL D4: Leitrim and Laois off to strong starts


Laois 2-11 Sligo 0-11

Leitrim 3-18 Waterford 0-11

Wexford 1-9 London 1-9

Carlow 2-10 Wicklow 2-10

Laois and Leitrim are very much in the driving seat in the race for promotion after the first round of games.

Leitrim had the largest margin of victory of any county across all four divisions this weekend, though that wasn't how it looked at half-time, as three points from Brian Lynch and two each from Conor Murray and Michael Curry left them 0-8 to 0-7 to the good.

Keith Beirne, who ended the game with 1-10 to his credit, started to move through the gears after half-time but it was only when Jack Beirne found the Waterford net in the 50th minute that Andy Moran's men really could relax and cut loose. Tom Prior scored one goal and set up another for Beirne in stoppage time, as the only black mark for the Connacht county was what looked like serious injury to Aidan Breen.

In last year's Division Four, Cavan and Tipperary were earmarked for promotion from very early on, given that they both won provincial championships in 2020, but Sligo came desperately close to knocking over both teams. Consequently, and also as a result of their greatly improved fortunes at underage level in recent years, with Connacht titles secured at both minor and U-20 level, the Yeats County looked like serious contenders for league honours this year.

They'll have to do it the hard way now after Lee Walker's late goal confirmed a six-point win for Laois at Markievicz Park.

Mark Barry and Niall Corbet set up Eoin Lowry for a Laois goal with 20 minutes gone, and scores from play and from frees from Paul Kingston helped Laois to a 1-8 to 0-6 half-time lead.

Sligo came out of the blocks fired up and had the best of the wind in the second half, though the rain took the sting out of the breeze to a certain degree. Darragh Cummins strode forward to pick off a point in between frees for Seán Carrabine and Niall Murphy, but they couldn't score freely enough during the 22-minute scoring drought on the Laois side.

Eventually the midlanders' dry spell was broken by Evan O'Carroll, and five minutes later, Walker's first touch after coming onto the field pushed the lead out to a commanding six points, and a free for each team in the closing minutes maintained that gap.

In last night's games, Matthew Walsh was London’s hero as his goal in the 76th minute salvaged a draw for the Exiles in their league opener against Wexford at Chadwick’s Wexford Park.

A good crowd of almost 3,500 people turned out for the second big game under the new lights at the Model County venue, and they saw the home side get out to a strong start when man of the match Seán Nolan helped them into an 0-5 to 0-2 lead.

Michael Maher’s London side regrouped after half-time and cut the gap through points from Liam Gavaghan, Chris Frawley and Matthew Walsh, but they were rocked back when Nolan intercepted a ball and then drove through to find the net via a defender in the 46th minute.

Nolan and Cian Hughes scored to push the lead out to six points, but Kevin O’Grady’s black card on the hour mark reduced Wexford to 14 men and London quickly took advantage, cutting the gap to three points thanks to scores from Gavaghan and Frawley.

Despite getting back up to 15 men for stoppage time, London now had momentum and they continued to press for an equaliser, getting their reward at the death through Walsh.

Meanwhile, in a nip-and-tuck contest at Netwatch Cullen Park, Shane O’Neill came off the bench for Carlow to shoot two late frees and salvage a share of the spoils for the home side in their local derby clash with Wicklow.

A first minute goal from Padraig O'Toole was reinforced by a quick point from Kevin Quinn as Wicklow burst out of the blocks in their first competitive contest under Oisín McConville, but Carlow themselves settled when Ross Dunphy flicked a goal in response.

An instinctive, first-time goal from Jordan Morrissey pushed Carlow into the lead in response, but that didn’t last long either as Wicklow full-back Eoin Murtagh made his foray forward count with a goal to make it 2-6 to 2-5 at half-time.

A second yellow card for Conor Doyle early in the second half should have been the catalyst for Wicklow to kick on and they did move three points clear through Andy Maher and Eoin Darcy, but Carlow found another burst of energy and they shot three scores in a row to draw level, then squared up the contest one last time through O’Neill, in response to what looked like a winning score from Wicklow’s Conor Crowley.