Superb Sligo achieve their dream goal!

Who said provincial titles count for nothing any more? You would only have to take one look at all the satisfied smiles on the Sligo supporters’ faces after the final whistle was blown at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday last to realise what a Connacht title meant to the Yeats County.   Having being in the shadows for thirty-two long and frustrating years, Tommy Brehony’s men produced the performance of their lives to capture the Nestor Cup and cement their place in the history books as the third Sligo team to emerge as Kings of Connacht.   Sometimes it is said in football that the underdog needs that bit of luck if they are to cause an upset. Make no mistake about it, the underdogs made their own luck on Sunday as Sligo totally outclassed the tribesman with a second-half display of guile, determination and quality.    Had the signs not being ominous though? The safe money may have been on a Galway win last weekend but Sligo were never going to just surrender with a Connacht title to be won.    They were the ones with all the momentum coming into the game. A routine win over New York was followed by an exceptional victory over Roscommon in unlikely circumstances in the last round.   Galway on the other hand recorded a sluggish and somewhat fortuitous victory over Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon. Granted the manner of the way they disposed of a poor Mayo team was very impressive to say the least but any hopes that existed that they were capable of reproducing a performance of that magnitude were dashed in Hyde Park last Sunday as they had no answer to a gallant Sligo side.   The first half was an entertaining affair with Kieran Quinn and Mark Brehony handing the Yeats County an early two-point lead before Galway found their rhythm. Points from Ja Fallon, Derek Savage, Michael Meehan, and two from full-forward Padraig Joyce had Galway in the ascendancy 14 minutes in.   Sligo hauled themselves back into the game with a Mark Brehony free, a Johnny Davey 45 and a Brehony point from play to restore parity in the contest.    Cormac Bane restored Galway’s lead before the turning point arrived. A long ball from centre -back Michael McNamara was collected by David Kelly who in turn put Eamonn O’Hara through on goal and the Tourlestrane clubman produced a clinical finish, firing past the helpless Paul Doherty in the Galway goal. Hyde Park erupted. Game well and truly on.   John McPartland slotted a neat point moments later as the Sligo challenge gained momentum. Nicky Joyce replied for the Tribesmen and Ja Fallon further reduced the deficit with half-time looming. McPartland exchanged points with Padraig Joyce to leave just the minimum of margins between the sides at the interval.    Although holding a slender advantage at half-time, it was Sligo’s second-half display which raised quite a few eyebrows amongst the sizeable contingent in Hyde Park. Confronted by the more illustrious rivals, Sligo put in a performance like men made of steel. They bossed the game for the final thirty minutes and exposed the lack of character in this latest Galway side.   Brehony extended their lead after the resumption before Nicky Joyce replied with a fine point of his own to keep his side in touch.   But it was here that Sligo took total control of the contest. And had they made the most of their opportunities of front of goal they wouldn’t of had to wait until the very final whistle to be certain the Nestor Cup was theirs.   The teams swapped points for the remainder of the game, the pick of them coming from Sligo centre back Michael McNamara when he pointed inspirationally after racing up the fieldto join the attack in the dying moments.   There was still time for full forward Joyce to point a consolation free and after four nervous minutes of injury-time which probably seemed like an eternity to the Sligo faithful, referee Brian Crowe blow the final whistle as Sligo captured the Connacht title of 2007.   Scenes of joy and jubilation followed as fans and supporters alike swarmed onto the pitch to congratulate their heroes and celebrate a famous victory.   Next on the agenda for Sligo is a date with destiny in Croke Park in a few weeks time and a guaranteed All-Ireland quarter-final. And who knows after that? If they can reproduce the form they showed in this game then they will be very difficult to beat.   Galway on the other hand will have to go back to the drawing board. Based on this display, they are far from All-Ireland contenders.    They lack strength down the middle. Finian Hanley is still learning his trade at full-back at this level while Diarmuid Blake was substituted from the centre-back position during the game. Centrefield continues to be a concern with the unconvincing duo Joe Bergin and Niall Coleman being exposed more often than not.   Ja Fallon seems to let the game pass him by and Padraig Joyce isn’t capable of influencing a contest the way he used to. In the midst of all the uncertainties, one thing is clear. Peter Forde will have to use all his experience to pick up the pieces from this Hyde Park fall-out.  Sligo: Philip Greene; Charles Harrison, Noel McGuire, Ross Donovan; Paul McGovern, Michael McNamara (0-1), Johnny Davey (0-1, a 45); Eamon O’Hara (1-0), Kieran Quinn (0-1); Brian Curran, Brendan Egan, Sean Davey; David Kelly, Mark Brehony (0-4, 3 frees), John McPartland (0-2). Subs: Kenneth Sweeney (0-1) for Brendan Egan (49 mins.), Pauric Doohan for Eamonn O’Hara (50 mins.), Adrian Marron for David Kelly (64 mins.), Brendan Phillips for Michael McNamara (70 mins.). Galway: Paul Doherty; Kieran Fitzgerald, Finian Hanley, Damien Burke; Michael Comer, Diarmuid Blake, Declan Meehan; Joe Bergin, Niall Coleman; Derek Savage (0-1), Ja Fallon (0-2), Nicholas Joyce (0-2, 1 free); Michael Meehan (0-1), Padraig Joyce (0-5, 4 fress), Cormack Bane (0-1). Substitutions: Sean Armstrong for Cormack Bane (45 mins.), Barry Cullinane for Michael Meehan (48 mins.), Niall Coyne for Diarmuid Blake (58 mins.), Matthew Clancy for Niall Coleman (64 mins.), Paul Geraghty for Derek Savage (69 mins.). Booked: Damien Burke (16 mins.); Joe Bergin (65 mins.). Referee: Brian Crowe (Cavan).    Match at a glance Man of the match: There were a number of contenders for this award on the Sligo team. Kieran Quinn put in a vintage display in  midfield and while all the backs were excellent throughout, it is Ross Donovan who gets the vote. The Eastern Harps clubman put in an outstanding performance at corner-back making one crucial intervention in the dying moments when Galway were trying to force an equaliser.  Weather: Not ideal for football. Heavy showers made footing very difficult. Crowd: 21,000 approximately. The atmosphere was very good inside the ground with the Sligo crowd generating most noise. Entertainment value: The game was entertaining throughout. The close-knit nature of the tie meant you could not take your eyes of it until the final whistle. Referee: Brian Crowe of Cavan enjoyed a very good game. He used commonsense throughout and let the game flow as much as he could. Wides: Sligo 10 Galway 7 Yellow cards: Sligo none. Galway 2 (Diarmuid Blake, Joe Bergin)