‘Not making a big deal out of it but I think when you go back you would prefer to have a bit of protection’

THE SPRING PROGRESS of the Leitrim footballers caught the national imagination, promotion achieved from the bottom tier and a rare appearance in Croke Park as they contested the Division 4 final in late March. 

Leitrim footballer Micheal McWeeney at the 2019 Connacht championship launch.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Defeat was their lot to Derry as they sought silverware but with a large Leitrim contingent present to support their side, it was a memorable occasion for the county’s football fortunes.

When the Leitrim players returned to the club arena in April, they found themselves brought back down to earth.

Defender Micheal McWeeney lined out for his local side St Mary’s Carrick-on-Shannon and suffered whiplash in a club game, a setback as he gears up for the Connacht opener against Roscommon on 12 May. 

The full-back believes county players should get ‘a bit of protection’ from referees when they line out in club matches.

“We played three rounds of league. A lot of boys have come back battered and bruised from it.

“It was tough. I seen a few articles about the April month. I actually missed two of them (league games) because I got a belt in one of them.

“Not making a big deal out of it but I think when you go back you would prefer to have a bit of protection.

“I know we played a game with Leitrim (last Monday night), and half our team were missing because we got knocks from it. I’d like to see referees giving more protection. I saw the Cavan manager (Mickey Graham) saying it, how many players he is down.

“I see it every year when you go back, you are targeted straight away. I’d just like a bit more protection, from my own point of view. It’s been a tough three or four weeks.”

“It’s the exact same everywhere. You get looked after – you are the man – even though I was full-back. It’s normally the forwards that get looked at – you’re watching him go up the field.

“I got a collision. I’ve been ruled out with whiplash for the last couple of weeks so I don’t know, time is against me with it.

“It’s in every county. There’s no point making excuses. Just get on with it. Unfortunately, I got it this time.”

With their league schedule concluded, Leitrim are switching to championship mode. The provincial structure continues to be viewed as faulty in many quarters and while McWeeney would not object to the introduction of a tiered system, he insists it would have to be promoted properly.

“It’s down the line, I’d be in favour of it if it was promoted the exact same as the first tier. At the moment what I’m hearing is it’s not.

“If it was a tier two championship that would have the same goals as the first tier, Allstars and trips as well, they have to be equal.

“What I’ve heard about the Tommy Murphy Cup before was it was just a gimmick. My fear is that if it took that route, it might be okay for a year or two but could slide then. The GAA, in my eyes, care about Division One and Two and Division three and Four just making up numbers.”

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