Sean Powers Sligo to victory

Electric Ireland Connacht MFC Semi-Final

Sligo 1-14 Roscommon 3-5

Roscommon’s great run at minor level over the past decade came to a halt at Kiltoom last Friday night when Sligo progressed to the Connacht Final after a three-point win against the home side.

It had been a one-sided but strange game which Roscommon almost undeservedly pulled out of the fire. Roscommon are now out of the championship following this defeat.

Indeed the fact that there is no second chance for Roscommon was commented upon by Sligo manager Aidan Rooney who graciously said the Rossies deserve another bite at the championship cherry. “I have great sympathy for Roscommon, who are a good team. It is very unfair that they are out after one game. There should be a second chance in the Connacht Minor Football Championship and it is something that we will all have to take a look at for the future.”

While admitting that Roscommon were very disappointed at the final whistle – having been seven points down, a scoring spree brought them level going into injury-time – manager Jimmy Gacquin conceded that the best team had won.

“We are very disappointed. When we drew level in the last minute we thought we might get a winner, but Sligo are a fine team. We were beaten by a better side.” Gacquin praised his team. “I’ll give our lads great praise for coming back from seven points down. They could have hung their heads but they never stopped trying.

“Looking back we were probably a bit too defensive in the first half. We were leaking goals all year so we were guarding against that today. To concede after we had scored a goal was crucial and it was a bad goal to let in.”

When you hear that it took three injury-time points from Sligo to secure victory, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a thrilling and closely-fought semi-final, but nothing could be further from the truth as Sligo were by far the better team and they totally deserved their win.

Sligo dominated from the throw-in, and despite shooting some bad wides, they were 0-7 to 0-3 ahead after 30 minutes of play.

Sean Power, Darragh Cummins, Nathan Rooney, Patrick O’Connor and Kyle Cawley were prominent as the Yeats County surged ahead. Roscommon were only playing in fits and starts and all they had to show for their first 30 minutes were three frees from Hubert Darcy (2) and Cian McKeon.

Then in first half injury-time the game burst into life. In the second minute of time added on Richard Hughes blasted home a spectacular goal for Roscommon after a great pass from Hubert Darcy. On the kick-out Sligo swept down the field and Kyle Cawley fisted Nathan Rooney’s pass beyond James Fetherstone. Two goals within 30 seconds, and we could have had a third, as from the kick-out, Brian Stack burst through the Sligo defence and his shot came back off a post.

Half-time score: Sligo 1-7 Roscommon 1-3.

Roscommon’s cause was not helped when one of their stars, Luke Carty, who came on as a sub in the 17th minute, was black-carded 25 seconds after he was introduced, for a body check on Sean Power.

The pattern of Sligo dominance continued on the restart, and with just five minutes of normal time left to play, Sligo were coasting to an easy win, leading 1-11 to 1-4.

Incredibly, Roscommon had not managed one point from play in all that time. Their only second-half point by that stage came from a Hubert Darcy free.

Then came a lightning-fast and dramatic flurry of Roscommon scores. First, sub Daniel Glynn fisted home a Michael McGloin delivery, and a minute later Conor Murray got Roscommon’s first point from play. Then in the 59th minute Brian Stack burst through for a great goal. It was hard to believe it, but the scores were now level at 1-11 to 3-5, heading into the three minutes of injury-time.

However Sligo steadied themselves, and shot three great points from play from subs Rian Kennedy and Cathal Herron, and impressive midfielder Darragh Cummins.

It was no more than they deserved and now they meet Galway in the Connacht Final in Hyde Park on July 19th. Roscommon will rue the 30 times that they gave away possession (from the official stats) and will be the first to admit that they were second best to a Sligo team who were slicker, stronger and better in front of the posts all through.

Relieved Sligo manager Aidan Rooney told People Sport: “We are delighted to get across the line and reach the final. What you saw there today shows you what championship football is like. We had the game won two or three times but Roscommon kept coming back. Our response at the end was superb after Roscommon levelled the scores. The three points we got were super and a great sign of the resilience of this team.”

Sligo: Eamon Kilgannon; Brian Mahon, Eddie McGuinness, Mark Dowd; Nathan Mullen, Finnian Cawley, Sean Power (0-1); Darragh Cummins (0-2), Paul Kilcoyne (0-1); Liam Gaughan (0-2, 1 free), Nathan Rooney, Sean Carabine (0-1); Kyle Cawley (1-3), Patrick O’Connor (0-1), Michael Gordon. Subs: Cathal Herron (0-2) for Carabine (34), Aaron Kearns for Mahon (black card 46), Rian Kennedy (0-1) for Gaughan (53), Kevin Banks for F Cawley (black card 63).

Roscommon: James Fetherstone; John Donohue, Aidan Dowd, Damien Duff; Richard Hughes (1-0), Mark Richardson, Luke Kelly; Gearoid Keenan, Conor Murray (0-1); Michael McGloin, Brian Stack (1-0), Kieran Whyte; Conor Payne, Hubert Darcy (0-3, all frees), Cian McKeon (0-1, free). Subs: Luke Carty for Kelly (17), Matthew Bourke for Carty (black card 17), Daniel Glynn (1-0) for McKeon (43), Ciaran Lennon for Whyte (51). Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo).