It hasn’t taken long for Terry Hyland to work his magic with Leitrim.
The Connacht minnows beat London yesterday to win promotion from Division Four for the first time in 11 years.
Leitrim have won all five of their Allianz League matches to date under Hyland, and now have a league final in Croke Park – where they haven’t played since 2006 – to look forward to.
The Green and Gold county were far from their best in yesterday’s 1-09 to 0-07 win over London, but despite appearing nervous, managed to produce a victory to maintain their 100% record in the basement division.
London started brightly at Avantcard Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, and Leitrim kicked three early frees wide, but Shane Quinn’s goal saw Leitrim lead by 1-04 to 0-4 at the interval.
Leitrim converted just 10 of their 27 shooting attempts, but it was enough to secure a path to Division 3 with two games to spare.
The 4,000 strong crowd were treated to a low-quality, scrappy affair in Carrick-on-Shannon, but it was a day where the result was of more importance than the performance for the hosts.
Leitrim – a county with the smallest population in Ireland – played an entertaining brand of football in their opening four games under manager Terry Hyland.
In fact, Louth were the only team to outscore Hyland’s side in the first four rounds of Allianz League action.
The Connacht minnows made the perfect start to their league campaign, thumping Wexford by 13 points on the opening day.
A four point win over Wicklow followed, before two stoppage time wins over Leitrim and Antrim, with the margin of victory in each game a solitary point.
The gap was wider yesterday, but Hyland conceded that it was a nervous display by his team.
“We had a very nervous 70 minutes to be honest,” the Cavan native told RTÉ Sport afterwards.
“That’s what I said to the lads at half-time. We got into the mindset that we were going out to not lose a game, rather than to win a game.”
The final whistle marked Leitrim’s first promotion since the current league structure was introduced in 2007, but it must be a familar feeling to Hyland at this stage.
The Cavan native has now won three promotions to three different divisions in the past six seasons.
In the last eight years, his teams have won two Ulster U21 titles, an All-Ireland Junior title, and won promotion from all three divisions below the top tier.
It is a remarkable record, and one that suggests that Hyland doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
David is the editor of The Season Ticket.
He is a qualified journalist, and a long-suffering Meath and Liverpool supporter.