SLICK SLIGO made a satisfactory start to their 2013 campaign with this routine victory over an understength IT Sligo in the opening round of the Connacht FBD League at Ballinode on Sunday last.
A return of fourteen points, nine of them from play, illustrated Sligo's lively performance on a day when their greater level of fitness was one of the defining differences between the sides.
The Students were missing several key players, including Donegal All Star, Mark McHugh and Mayo's Danny Geraghty, and they never quite matched Sligo's overall movement and team work.
A good overall team effort and a first win of the season safely tucked away made it the perfect start to the New Year for Sligo boss, Kevin Walsh, who was entitled to take further satisfaction from the competent performances of a number of youngsters.
Goalkeepers, Declan McCormack from the Coolaney/Mullinabreena club and Calry's Adrian Devaney got a half each and came through an admittedly untroubled afternoon with no major scares while Tourlestrane's Adrian McIntryre, making his senior debut, settled into the half back line with the sort of imprssive efficiency which has become his trademark at club level.
James Clarke had a solid outing at midfield while Francis Quinn, Niall Murphy and teenager, Kevin McDonald from Castleconnor who was playing at this level for the first time all made notable contributions in the forward line.
And another plus for Sligo was the commanding display at midfield for Stephen Gilmartin who was making his reappearance for the senior county team after an absence of more than a year.
The final tally of fourteen points was also satisfactory, especially as Adrian Marren, so often the man to carry the biggest threat up front, contributed just a single score on this occasion. It meant that there was a good spread of scores among the forwards.
Niall Murphy, who looks well capable of bringing his outstanding club form of the last few years on to the inter-county scene, grabbed six points, while Mark Breheny, once again in top form contributed five points.
From an IT perspective, it was a somewhat disappointing afternoon but, as manager, Michael Moyles, was quick to acknowledge afterwards, it was a game from which they can learn much. For them, it was a stepping stone towards developing their team for the Sigerson Cup campaign which begins at the end to the month.
Sligo's hard training regime over the last couple of months was evident in the early exchanges as they took a firm grip on proceedings right from the start, racing into a commanding 0-8 to 0-1 lead by the 18th minute.
Two superb points by Breheny, each the product of slick passing movements, got the Yeats County off to a flyer and although Niall Costello replied with an excellent effort from play for the Students, there was no denying Sligo's superiority.
Murphy added on points from a free and from play and Francis Quinn also got in on the scoring act before Gilmartin, who was at the heart of much of Sligo's forceful play at this stage, set up Breheny for a well-taken score to make it 0-6 to 0-1.
Then Murphy slotted over his second free before Mark Quinn, who had a storming game from the centre-half berth, charged forward to make it 0-8 to 0-1 in the 18th minute.
Stephen Coen and Paul O'Connor converted frees to cut the deficit to five points at the break but normal service was resumed after the restart as Sligo picked off three scores in quick succession from Pat Hughes, Breheny (free) and Marren.
It was all one-way traffic now and further points by Murphy (2 frees) and Breheny (free) eased the Yeats County into a 0-14 to 0-3 lead.
The IT hit back with consolation scores by Coen and O'Connor in the closing minutes but by then the points were already neatly secured by Sligo.
D McCormack, C Harrison, B Kennedy, N Ewing, A McIntyre, M Quinn (0-1), K Cawley; S Gilmartin, J Clarke; F Quinn, A Marren (0-1), P Hughes (0-1); M Breheny (0-5, 2f), K McDonald, N Murphy (0-6, 3f). Subs: A Devaney for McCormack (half time), B Curran for Marren (42 mins), E Mullen for Clarke (46 mins), M Gormley for Harrison (52 mins), B Egan for Breheny (57 mins)
A McCallig, R Donavan, D McKernan, B McQuaid, N Hahessy, M Jennings, P Seoige, D Maye, G Whyte, D Gilsennan, M Forde, D Hyland, S Coen (0-2, 1f), P O'Connor (0-21, 1f), N Costello. Subs: J Rogers for Hyland (40 mins), D Lyons for Jennings (44 mins), D Gallagher for Maye (53 mins)