The second-half thrilled fans with Sligo scoring three goals in 16 minutes – and Leitrim replying with two goals – as the winners overcame a black card for star forward Red Og Murphy to book their first provincial final appearance since 2015.
Sligo could have goaled after two minutes but Luke Towey blasted over for the game’s first score.
In a sloppy first-half, where wet underfoot conditions made for errors and turnovers, both sides traded scores in the opening 10 minutes but then Sligo began to find their groove and were 0-4 to 0-2 up by the 21st minute following Red Og Murphy’s second pointed free.
Leitrim, whose industry was let down by poor shooting, took a 27th minute lead with a bizarre goal. Jordan Reynolds’ point attempt dropped short into Sligo goalkeeper Alan Davey’s grasp but the net-minder inexplicably took a step back, bring the ball over the goal-line, and the green flag was raised.
It was harsh on Davey who made a superb point-blank save to deny Reynolds’ goalbound effort after 13 minutes.
Within a minute of conceding a goal Sligo almost replied with a goal of their own but busy forward Conall Ryan sent wide with a curling shot.
Leitrim finished the half in style, to lead 1-4 to 0-5, with a third point from excellent full-forward Caleb Duffy.
Red Og Murphy’s early second-half goal, which put Sligo back in front, was replied to by a second goal for Leitrim – Oisin McLoughlin on target – but Sligo bagged a second goal when centre-back Evan Lavin netted with a powerful finish.
It was tit-for-tat for a spell – Sligo making an inspired substitution with the introduction of Ryan Walsh – and it was Walsh’s goal, scored with 14 minutes of normal time left, that seemed to give an improving Sligo the edge.
But then Leitrim’s Oisin McLoughlin grabbed his second goal to level matters yet again, at 3-7 apiece, but it was Sligo who found an extra gear in the closing stages as Player of the Match Conall Ryan stepped up.
Red Og Murphy (1-2 , 2f), Conall Ryan (0-4), Evan Lavin (1-1), Ryan Walsh (1-1), Luke Towey (0-2), Roland Anderson (0-1), Barry Gorman (0-1)
Oisin McLoughlin (2-1, 1f), Caleb Duffy (0-3), Jordan Reynolds (1-0), Evan Harkin (0-1), Aaron Hoare (0-1), Riordan O’Rourke (0-1, 1f)
A Davey (Eastern Harps), E Lyons (Shamrock Gaels), J Ellis (Enniscrone-Kilglass), J Weir (St Farnan’s), B Cox (Calry-St Joseph’s), E Lavin (Eastern Harps), O Conlon (Ballymote), N Colsh (Ballymote), B Gorman (Coolaney-Mullinabreena), R Anderson (Owenmore Gaels), L Towey (St Molaise Gaels), C O’Dowd (Enniscrone-Kilglass), C Ryan (Tubbercurry), R Og Murphy (Curry), K McKenna (Shamrock Gaels)
M Cahill (Castleconnor) for R Og Murphy, 38 (black card); R Walsh (St Michael’s) for C O’Dowd, 39; J Stephenson (Eastern Harps) for R Anderson, 52; J McMunn (St Patrick’s) for E Lavin, 60+2; B Tuohy (Shamrock Gaels) for N Colsh, 60+4
E Gallagher (Melvin Gaels), C Dwyer (St Caillin’s-Fenagh), S Harkin (Mohill), E Harkin (Mohill), C Cullen (Aughnasheelin), S Chandler (Leitrim Gaels), M Diffley (St Mary’s-Kiltoghert), A Hoare (Aughnasheelin), R Sheridan (Glencar-Manorhamilton), O McLoughlin (St Caillin’s-Fenagh), J Clancy (St Patrick’s-Dromahair), R O’Rourke (St Caillin’s-Fenagh), D Devanney (Glencar-Manorhamilton), C Duffy (Allen Gaels), J Reynolds (Mohill)
M Keegan (St Caillin’s-Fenagh) for C Cullen, h-t; C Kiernan (Carrigallen) for D Devanney, 30; P Prior (Drumreilly) for M Diffley, 56; P Kelly (Kiltubrid) for J Reynolds, 60+1; C Kenny (Carrigallen) for Keegan, 60+4
Liam Devenney (Mayo)