Since the advent of the qualifiers, Sligo have only reached the quarter-finals twice, but the former Westmeath boss admits he expected more from his charges following their impressive win against Wicklow in the last round.
The Yeats men hit 13 wides, only landed 12 points and needed another rescue mission off the bench from Stephen Coen to set up a Round 4A clash with Munster runners-up Cork.
Flanagan admitted: “We were the better team on both days but we didn’t push on from the Wicklow match to get the scores and be further ahead.
“We should have been well ahead with 10 minutes to go [to make sure] that we weren’t panicking. But we are still there, we are in the next round and that’s what we’ll take from Saturday. The positive last week was that we dominated the game and if we keep dominating games we will get the chances. We will get those scores eventually. We may be reduced to less opportunities but if we can get the scores ... I’d rather be making the chances and not scoring them than nothing making them.”
The sides were tied at 0-6 each at half-time, but inspired by another impressive display from Kevin McDonnell in midfield and Johnny Martin at full-back, Sligo eventually gained the upper hand.
But because of their wastefulness and late scores from Eoin Hanrahan and Micheal Brosnan, Sligo still needed the reinforcements off the bench — Coen, James Kilcullen and Shane McManus — to take the deserved win.
John Brudair can take positives from his first year in change of the Treaty men — they retained their Division 3 status and earned qualifier wins over London and Antrim — but he felt real advancements would have been made by reaching the next round.
“I would have felt that there had been progress made if we would have won. Today was a real test of a team, to be honest we were very close to pulling it off,” said Brudair. “It was good to get the results against London and Antrim but this would have been a result where we could say we were going in the right direction.”
But despite all the chances they created Sligo will need to make big improvements ahead of the next day if they are to have any hopes of repeating the heroics of a dozen years ago.
Limerick had two good goal chances, which better teams would have taken, while Sligo’s free-taking will also need to improve — goalkeeper Aidan Devanay, Adrian Marren and Mark Breheny all missed kicks.
But it must be admitted that the Yeats men have definitely improved since their Connacht championship exit to Galway. Flanagan says they’ll know how much they’ve improved against Brian Cuthbert’s side.
“When it came to championship we were just that yard off the pace. There is no point in saying any different. We have pushed on and all we can do now is take the next game.
“We are at the stage if we get over the next one we are in a quarter-final. It’s an opportunity for us to see where we are at,” Flanagan said.
Scorers for Sligo: A Marren 0-3 (3f), S Coen, M Breheny 0-2 (1f) each, P Hughes, K Cawley, A Devaney (1’45), J Kilcullen, S McManus 0-1 each.
Subs for Sligo: J Kilcullen for Egan (ht), S Coen for Hynes (54), L Bree for McDonnell (68), S McManus for Curran (69).
Scorers for Limerick: I Ryan 0-3 (2f), B Scanlon (1’45, 1f), G Collins 0-2 each, K Phair, E Hanrahan (1f), M Brosnan 0-1 each.
Subs for Limerick: E Hanrahan for Phair (40), M Brosnan for Hegarty (48), J Mullane for Neville (51).
Stephen Coen. For the second week in a row Coen produced the goods off the bench. He kicked two points, including the crucial lead score two minutes from time.
Talk of the town
Sligo kicked more wides than points but still managed to edge past Limerick. What would they be like if Adrian Marren, David Kelly and Mark Breheny hit their top form?
Did that just happen?
After each goalkeeper kicked a 45 early on they both went on to kick a wide each in the following five minutes. Brian Scanlon was Limerick’s second best scorer on the day.
Best on show
Kevin McDonnell. Matched against veteran Seanie Buckley, the 19-year-old Castleconnor man was splendid for Sligo.
Black card watch
No notable offences either spotted or missed by Longford referee Fergal Kelly.
When your bench comes on to kick four of the last five points, Pat Flanagan has to be praised for his tactical acumen. It will be interesting to see how many of them force their way into the starting line-up for round four.
The man in black
Fergal Kelly had a good game. Tried to implement the advantage rule at all times and called play back when it didn’t materialise. The home support was angered following an off the ball clash between David Kelly and Gearoid Hegarty, but Kelly nor his linesman saw the incident so there was no punishment.
On July 26, Sligo face Cork in the Qualifier Round 4A. John Brudair’s side are out of action until next spring.