Carew has Sligo primed to beat the handicapper
Sligo are, in horse-racing terms, 'out of the handicap' going into Saturday's Connacht semi-final against Roscommon in Markievicz Park, according to manager Niall Carew.
However, the sport of kings produces a regular flow of surprises and since Kildare native Carew comes from a county well versed in equine matters, he is hoping that his ambitious outfit are ready to gallop into a date with Mayo in the final.
Having received a bye to the semi-final, Sligo are the last county to enter this year's All-Ireland race. That has brought its own challenges for the training schedule in the 11-week gap between the end of the League and the Championship opener.
"In a way, we had to do pre-season all over again. You couldn't keep lads at peak fitness, waiting for a game for that long so we had to measure it very carefully," said Carew who previously managed Munster minnows Waterford.
He also worked in Kildare with Kieran McGeeney for a few years.
Carew got one over on McGeeney in the final round of League games in April when Sligo beat Armagh to ensure survival in Division 3.
However, Roscommon were, on the same afternoon, securing promotion to Division 1. And, since Championship results have gone very much with League placings, it suggests that Roscommon are poised to reach the Connacht final.
"If it was racing we'd be out of the handicap, I suppose. Roscommon are very much on the way up, but we have a good balance of players who know what it's like to win a Connacht title (2007) and some more who played in another final (2010)," said Carew.
"Then, we have younger lads who are full of enthusiasm. The blend is good. I'd be happy with the way we showed in challenge games and while this is a big step up, I believe the squad is ready for it. Home advantage should help too."
Sligo's last Championship win over Roscommon was in 2007 when they won by two points, en route to winning the Connacht title.
Saturday's game will be shown live on Sky Sports (7.00pm)