Galway 0-12 Sligo 1-10
Sligo today ended their 32-year wait for a Connacht SFC title, doggedly seeing off the challenge of Galway at Hyde Park despite missing a series of second half frees.
Mark Breheny, Sean Davey, John McPartland and Adrian Marren all contrived to miss frees during a nail-biting final, but those wides failed to matter in the end as the Galway attack ultimately misfired.
All six of Galway’s starting forwards got on the scoresheet in a first half which ended 1-7 to 0-9 in Sligo’s favour.
But the Tribesmen, who were hoping to win their second provincial crown in three seasons, fell away after the resumption, only adding frees from cousins Nicky and Padraig Joyce.
Five points without reply had helped Galway move 0-5 to 0-2 ahead but a cracking 24th-minute goal from Sligo midfielder Eamonn O’Hara really set the cat amongst the pigeons.
A foot pass from Michael McNamara and a quick offload from David Kelly splayed open the Galway defence, allowing O’Hara to roar into space and although Finian Hanley was nipping back at him, the 2002 All-Star ended his 30-yard run with a rising rocket of a shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Paul Doherty.
McPartland tagged on a quick point to send Sligo into a 1-6 to 0-6 lead and Tommy Breheny’s men held firm to go in at the interval armed with a 1-7 to 0-9 advantage.
The second half saw a noticeable dip in quality as the pressure of the occasion clearly got to both teams. Galway, surprisingly, seemed to suffer the most and they struggled to get any meaningful supply of ball to their forwards.
Breheny and Nicky Joyce swapped early frees but Galway then went a full 25 minutes before notching their next point. Sligo also stuttered as four different players managed to miss free kicks.
Despite losing the inspirational O’Hara to a knee injury, Sligo stubbornly held onto their lead. Their nerves certainly jangled when Padraig Joyce split the posts with two late frees, but in between a glorious 70th-minute point from Michael McNamara turned out to be the match-winning score.
Joyce’s fifth free of the afternoon had put just the minimum between the sides in injury-time, however former Footballer of the Year Ja Fallon then sent Galway’s only clear-cut chance to draw the game wide of the mark.
Seconds later, the final whistle went and Sligo’s players were engulfed by their ecstatic supporters as they celebrated their county’s third Connacht senior title - 1928 and 1975 marked their previous two wins.
GALWAY: P Doherty; K Fitzgerald, F Hanley, D Burke; M Comer, D Blake, D Meehan; J Bergin, N Coleman; D Savage (0-1), J Fallon (0-2), N Joyce (0-2, 1f); M Meehan (0-1), P Joyce (0-5, 5f), C Bane (0-1).
Subs used: S Armstrong for Bane (46 mins), B Cullinane for M Meehan (49), N Coyne for Blake (59), M Clancy for Coleman (65), P Geraghty for Savage (70).
SLIGO: P Greene; C Harrison, N McGuire, R Donovan; P McGovern, M McNamara (0-1), J Davey (0-1, 1 '45'); E O'Hara (1-0), K Quinn (0-1); B Curran, B Egan, S Davey; D Kelly, M Breheny (0-4, 3f), J McPartland (0-2).
Subs used: B Philips for McGovern (34 mins-half-time, blood sub), K Sweeney (0-1) for Egan (50), P Doohan for O'Hara (51), A Marren for Kelly (65), B Philips for McNamara (70+3).
Referee: Brian Crowe (Cavan)