Sligo 0-12 Wicklow 0-10
Pat Flanagan hailed the contribution of his midfield operators as Sligo edged out Wicklow in a qualifier that was closely fought but lacking quality.
While neither attacking unit had a day to remember, Sligo were marginally better as they earned their first qualifier victory since 2009.
“We were disappointed after the Galway game so our goal was to improve a lot from it” said Flanagan.
“We thought that if we could pick up on aspects of that game then we could get the win against Wicklow.
“It’s always tough coming down here but I think it was our midfield that made the difference. Putting in Kevin McDonnell and James Hynes made a big difference and with Pat Hughes we won a lot of turnovers and that meant it was easier for us to get ball into the full-forward line.”
Flanagan praised the players for retaining their hunger and motivation after losing the Connacht semi-final and felt that they would improve for the outing.
“We had an awful lot of hunger in the first half and we had more than twice the amount of ball won than they did. Now, we had a serious amount of wides in the second half so that’s not good and that’s usually our strong section but we got off to a good start.
“Credit to Wicklow they came back at us but we came back again and we made it difficult for them and we didn’t go behind at any stage.”
Harry Murphy was understandably downbeat afterwards although his greatest concern was that many of Wicklow’s best servants might decide to call it a day. He pleaded with them not to make any hasty decisions.
“How many times can they go to the well?” wondered Murphy. “Hopefully we don’t get an exodus of the older lads. I really hope that some of them lads stay on.”
Sligo flew out of the traps, with James Hynes prominent from the start. He kicked an early point and Wicklow soon found themselves four points down thanks a fabulous Charlie Harrison effort from distance on nine minutes, a free from Mark Breheny, and a wonderful score from a sideline by Adrian Marren.
Spurred on by a vociferous home support, Wicklow dispensed with their sweeper system and clawed themselves back into the game.
Talismanic full-forward, Seanie Furlong kicked two points and the teams were level on 0-6 apiece before Sligo finished strongly with points from a Marren free and a 45 by goalkeeper, Aidan Devaney to lead 0-8 to 0-6 at half time.
The second half was dreadful with the tension appearing to have a detrimental effect as the wides mounted and a near 20-minute scoreless period ensued.
Wicklow were first to point with James Stafford firing over a sweet score off his right boot. The hard-working Harrison replied for Sligo before that lengthy lull. Stephen Coen ended the agony with his first score from the bench but Wicklow subs Niall Gaffney and Daragh O’Sullivan brought the sides level once more.
It looked like the hosts were ready to kick on but it was Sligo that found another gear. Coen put Sligo ahead before Curran opened the important two-point gap that saw them home.
Scorers for Sligo: C Harrison, S Coen, A Marren (1f, 1 s/l), M Breheny (2fs) (0-2 each), D Kelly, B Curran, J Hynes, A Devaney (45) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wicklow: S Furlong (0-4, 1f), R Finn, J Stafford, A McLoughlin, N Gaffney, D O’Sullivan, L Glynn (f) (0-1 each).
SLIGO: A Devaney; R Donovan, J Martyn, N Ewing; Charlie Harrison, A McIntyre, K Cawley; K McDonnell, J Hynes; B Curran, M Breheny, B Egan; P Hughes, A Marren, D Kelly.
Subs: J Kilcullen for Breheny (44), S Coen for Egan (56), D Rooney for Hynes (64).
WICKLOW: R Lambert; C Hyland, P McLoughlin, A Murphy; K Murphy, A Byrne, D Healy; J Stafford, A McLoughlin; D Hayden, P Earls, R Finn; L Glynn, S Furlong, P McWalter.
Subs: N Gaffney for Hayden (ht), J McGrath for McWalter (46), C McGraynor for Earls (54), D O’Sullivan for Finn (58).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved