LOW-SCORING it might have been but this third round Connacht FBD League clash at bitterly-cold Quigabar last Sunday was an absorbing contest as battling Sligo held off Galway's late rally to book a place in the final of the competition.
The result sets up a novel showdown with Leitrim in next Sunday's decider where Sligo will be bidding to win the FBD crown for the first time since 2004
After victories over IT Sligo and NUIG in the first two rounds, this was by far Sligo's toughest test and the manner in which they responded to the challenge offered plenty of encouragement for the forthcoming season. Forced to field without a number of regulars, including Charlie Harrison, Adrian Marren and Pat Hughes as well as College players, Ross Donavan, Stephen Coen and Tony Taylor, Sligo took some time to get into their stride and indeed looked to be in real trouble when Galway edged into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead by the 17th minute.
Up to that point, Galway had completely dominated possession and really should have been further ahead.
However, it is a reflection of the dramatic transformation of the pattern of the contest that the Tribesmen didn't register a single score for the next 41 minutes by which time Sligo had put themselves into a commanding position.
Galway's lack of scoring power underlined a real weakness in their own ranks but was also due to some brave and vigilant defending by Sligo who put all their early troubles behind them to take a firm grip on the exchanges.
Keelan Cawley, Johnny Martyn and Neil Ewing blotted out the threat of the Galway full-forward line which had looked so menacing in the early stages while Brian Curran had a proverbial stormer, combining tigerish defending with a series of probing runs into opposition territory. Stephen Gilmartin and Adrian McIntyre had to give second best at midfield early on but eventually got the upper hand in the battle for crucial possession and both were seen to great effect in the second half as Sligo upped the pace.
Mark Breheny, captaining the side on the day, was as influential as ever up front while young Brian Egan gave further evidence of his sparkling potential with three superb scores from play.
A special mention too for goalkeeper, Philip Greene, who made a number of critical saves over the hour, none better than a diving fingertip block to deflect Niall Coleman's goalbound effort around the upright three minutes from time.
Galway adapted to the demanding conditions better than Sligo in the early stages and a slick passing move brought them the opening score in the 3rd minute as Peadar O'Griofa shot over from the left wing. The same player found the target again two minutes later, this time with a precise long range effort.
Sligo didn't open their account until the 11th minute - a good score from play by Kenneth Sweeney - but Galway continued to make most of the running. Their forceful play was rewarded with a cracking goal in the 17th minute.
Paul Conroy and Sean Armstrong were involved in the build-up on the left and when the ball was played into the path of Danny Cummins, the Claregalway youngster unleashed a blistering volley which crashed into the roof of the net. That gave the visitors a four point advantage and it looked as if they were well placed to go on and take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Sligo, however, were determined to hang in there and points from a free by Breheny and from play by Brian Egan gave them renewed heart. They were fortunate to escape unpunished in the 26th minute, however, when John O'Brien charged through the Sligo defence only to see his well-struck effort rebound off the upright.
Almost immediately, the Yeats County broke upfield. Curran did well to earn a free and Breheny slotted over to cut the gap to the minimum, 1-2 to 0-4, at the interval. Galway missed three good chances in the early stages of the second half and were made to pay a heavy price when Brian Egan fired over an excellent score from play to put the sides level in the 41st minute.
Sligo were firing on all cylinders now and edged in front for the first time when Breheny converted a free after McIntyre had been fouled.
As Galway struggled to stop the rot, the Yeats County increased their advantage when Breheny picked off a splendid score from play after great work by Sweeney. Egan followed up with another terrific score after a patient build-up and it got worse for Galway when wing back, Gary O'Donnell, was sent off for a second yellow card offence six minutes from time.
The introduction of Michael Meehan gave Galway a renewed sense of urgency an only a breathtaking save by Greene prevented Coleman from getting through for a goal which would have tied things up again in the 58th minute.
Armstrong converted the resultant '45' for Galway's first score of the half and the same player found the target from a free to get the gap down to just a single point. That set the scene for a nailbiting finish and Sligo had to defend in numbers to keep Galway at bay. Then, deep into injury time, Brian Egan set up Shane McManus for a brilliant insurance score for the Yeats County.