Leitrim only won their second ever qualifier game (when defeating Waterford last month) but their hopes of building on that never materialised as Sligo put them to the sword when they had the wind at their backs and opened up a 0-12 to 0-4 interval lead.
Leitrim, who had only managed six goals in 16 previous qualifier games, never looked like mounting a comeback after the restart.
Ward admitted: “We’ll take the week to consider how we move forward. I’m very committed to Leitrim GAA in general. I’ve done a lot of coaching with them and I hope to do the same in the future. It’s been a progressive campaign. We won a qualifier game. Little steps of progress are major steps for us.”
Niall Murphy, starting at full-forward in place of the injured Pat Hughes, was the star for Sligo and he kicked five points from play in that opening half. And Sligo, having coughed up an eight-point lead to Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final, never looked like folding here and pushed on to score their biggest win in 24 qualifier matches.
Kyle Cawley soloed through to get the opening goal after 49 minutes.
And Sligo’s biggest score in those two dozen qualifier games was secured when sub Darragh Cummins got a late goal, by which time Leitrim were down to 14 men when Gary Reynolds was black-carded with all six subs on the field.
“I was very pleased that we didn’t concede a goal,” said Sligo manager Niall Carew. “We worked very hard on that. I thought we struggled against Roscommon with the runners from deep. We worked very hard on that over the last few weeks and it paid dividends today.”
N Murphy 0-5, M Breheny 0-4 (2f), K Cawley &, D Cummins 1-0 each, A Marren 0-3 (1f, 1’45), J Hynes, K O’Donnell & B Egan 0-1 each
E Mulligan 0-4 (4f), N O’Donnell 0-2, D Wrynn, R Kennedy (f), D Sweeney & C Gaffney 0-1 each.
A Devaney; D Maye, K McDonnell, G O’Kelly-Lynch; Keelan Cawley, E Flanagan, Brendan Egan; J Hynes, A McIntyre; A Marren, M Breheny, N Ewing; Brian Egan, N Murphy, Kyle Cawley.
C Breheny for Hynes (47), P Clark for Brian Egan (51), L Henry for Maye (63), N Gaughan for O’Kelly-Lynch (65), C Nally for Kyle Cawley (67), D Cummins for Marren (69).
B Flynn; P Maguire, R Gallagher, K McHugh; S McWeeney, G Reynolds, T Mulvey; S Moran, P McGowan; C Gilheaney, E Mulligan (0-4f), K Conlan; R Kennedy, D Wrynn, J Rooney.
N Woods for Rooney (19), D Sweeney for McGowan (33), N O’Donnell for Gilheaney (34), A Croal for Gallagher (36), C Gaffney for Mulvey (51), R O’Rourke for Moran (60).
Sean Hurson (Tyrone).