Connacht SFC: Galway survive stern Sligo test

Connacht SFC Semi-Final

Galway 1-13 Sligo 0-14

By Liam Maloney at Markievicz Park

Galway got out of jail at Markievicz Park as full-forward Robert Finnerty’s goal in second-half added time gave Padraic Joyce’s side a two-point win over a superb Sligo.

Finnerty, who finished with 1-5, was the match-winner and it was powerful substitute Damien Comer who helped turn things in Galway’s favour as they were on the brink of a shock defeat.

Holders Galway were looking to reach a ninth successive Connacht final while Sligo were aiming to qualify for a second successive decider for the first time.

Galway were favourites based not only on their Allianz Football League Division One status – compared to Sligo being in Division Three – but because they had 14 points to spare when they comfortably defeated Sligo in last year’s final at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park.

It was 12 years since Sligo last defeated Galway in the province at senior level – this was a semi-final in 2012.

Sligo were hoping to exploit home advantage as Markievicz Park was the scene for some thrilling contests with the Tribesmen over the years, including three draws at the Sligo town venue in the 1990s.

In splendid sunshine reminiscent of a championship weekend in June or July, Sligo belied pre-match predictions by taking the game to Galway and hurting them on the scoreboard.

Sligo registered four good points without reply to lead 0-4 to 0-0 by the 12th minute – this early surge included scores from Nathan Mullen, Cian Lally, Niall Murphy and Canice Mulligan.

Galway didn’t get on the scoreboard until Shane Walsh’s classy point after 13th minutes and they later fell four points down again, 0-5 to 0-1, after a fine Sligo score from the influential Patrick O’Connor.

The visitors finally began to get a foothold and three points without reply had them within a point of Sligo, 0-5 to 0-4, by the 23rd minute.

But Sligo stayed in front for the remainder of the opening half and were deserving of their three-point interval lead, 0-9 to 0-6.

Galway, however, had kicked six wides in the first-half (compared to Sligo’s four misses), and a series of unexploited goal chances from Galway let Sligo off the hook – Cein Darcy, Liam O’Conghaile and Jake McCabe all should have goaled.

Sligo looked to continue their zest in the second-half but when Galway summoned Damien Comer from the bench in the 47thminute Sligo were under additional pressure and Comer bagged a fine point within minutes of his introduction.

The hosts were three points clear, 0-13 to 0-10, after 50 minutes when Sean Carrabine pointed with aplomb but Sligo only scored once more after that when Niall Murphy landed a classy score from Patrick O’Connor’s pass eight minutes later.

Bit by bit Galway came back into it, without really impressing, as points from substitute Kieran Molloy and Cein Darcy made it a one-point game, 0-14 to 0-13, with additional time looming.

A defensive error led to Galway’s goal chance in the second minute of time added on. Damien Comer powered through and set up Johnny Heaney, who put the ball on a plate for Robert Finnerty to flick it into the net.

This goal put Galway in front for the first time, 1-13 to 0-14, and it was enough to get them over the line, albeit unconvincingly.

Scorers for Galway: Robert Finnerty 1-5 (1f), Damien Comer 0-2, Cein Darcy 0-2, Dylan McHugh 0-1, Johnny Heaney 0-1, Shane Walsh 0-1, Kieran Molloy 0-1.

Scorers for Sligo: Niall Murphy 0-3 (1f, 1 ‘mark’), Patrick O’Connor 0-3, Alan McLoughlin 0-2, Nathan Mullen 0-1, Darragh Cummins 0-1, Sean Carrabine 0-1, Canice Mulligan 0-1, Cian Lally 0-1, Mikey Gordon 0-1.

Galway: Conor Gleeson; Johnny McGrath, Sean Fitzgerald, Jack Glynn; Dylan McHugh, John Daly, Liam Silke; Paul Conroy, Sean Kelly; Johnny Heaney, Shane Walsh, Cein Darcy; Jack McCabe, Robert Finnerty, Liam O’Conghaile.

Subs: Damien Comer for Jack McCabe (42), Cillian O’Curraoin for Shane Walsh (47), Daniel O’Flaherty for John Daly (55), Kieran Molloy for Liam O’Conghaile (58), Patrick Egan for Paul Conroy (64).

Sligo: Aidan Devaney; Evan Lyons, Eddie McGuinness, Paul McNamara; Brian Cox, Nathan Mullen, Darragh Cummins; Sean Carrabine, Canice Mulligan; Cian Lally, Alan McLoughlin, Patrick O’Connor; Paul Kilcoyne, Niall Murphy, Mikey Gordon.

Subs: Lee Deignan for Mikey Gordon (52), Mark Walsh for Cian Lally (62), Peter Laffey for Darragh Cummins (65), Eoghan Smith for Sean Carrabine (67), Donal Conlon for Patrick O’Connor (70+1).

Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin).