EXPERIMENTATION WAS the name of the game for Sligo as they got their 2012 campaign under way with four games in the Connacht FBD League.
After a disappointing season in 2011, when they crashed out of the Championship to Leitrim and lost to Wicklow in the All-Ireland Qualifiers, Sligo approached the New Year with a renewed sense of ambition.
A number of players who missed the previous year through injury were back in the fold and manager, Kevin Walsh, made it clear he would use the Connacht League to have a look at a number of fringe players as well. As things transpired, Sligo lost two of their four games in the FBD competition but, overall, the Connacht League was an important platform in terms of preparation for the Allianz National League.
Atrocious weather conditions greeted the start of Sligo's competive year as they lost to NUIG in the opening round of the FBD competition at storm-lashed Ballyhaunis.
The occasion marked the launch of FBD's continued sponsorship of the competition and it was a special night too for Connacht's splendid new Centre of Excellence which was hosting competitive games for the first time.
Sligo fielded an experimental side with youngsters Vinny Cadden, Shane McManus, Pat Hughes, David Maye and Stephen Kilcoyne among those getting a run out.
In the event, NUIG ran out 1-6 to 0-4 winners, leaving Walsh to reflect on the futility of the fixture.
What the manager needed was a positive response from his players in their next outing - and he wasn't disappointed as they clocked up an impressive 1-17 to 0-9 win over London at Kent Park.
Colm McGee, who missed a lot of the 2011 season through injury, made a big impact on his return, helping himself to six points, while James Hynes and Coolera/Strandhill teenager, Niall Murphy, also showed up well. James Clarke was another newcomer who showed up well, lining up alongside Tony Taylor in midfield.
Sligo led 1-7 to 0-4 at the break and continued to hold the upper hand in the second half.
Sligo's third game in the Connacht League was a local derby against IT Sligo at Enniscrone. A second half goal by the tireless Johnny Davey paved the way for a good 1-9 to 0-6 victory.
Given that the sides were due to meet later in the year in the Connacht Championship, Sligo's meeting with Galway at Tuam in the last match of the Connacht League generated a fair bit of excitement.
But the game turned out to be something of a damp squib, especially from a Sligo perspective as they crashed to a 4-9 to 0-12 defeat.