Kilbride class helps St Brigid's pull clear
Roscommon's St Brigid's recovered from a poor start to cruise past Sligo champions Tourlestrane and into their second Connacht final in a row, thanks to an efficient second-half display.
It took the defending champions a little while to get going, but once the Brigid's forwards found their range, their experience told as they brushed aside a Tourlestrane side bidding to make their first Connacht final since 1982.
After picking apart the 2010 Sligo champions Eastern Harps, in last year's provincial championships, St Brigid's could have been forgiven for underestimating this year's Yeats County offering.
But they were immediately shown what Tourlestrane had to offer when the south Sligo side shot four unanswered points in the first nine minutes.
Centre-forward Gary Gaughan came to the fore early on and he finished off a flowing move when he made the most of a slip from Eoin Sheehy. Straight from the kick-out Gaughan grabbed his second -- a splendid point from distance -- before Brian Egan opened his account with a well-struck free.
And the Sligo men rounded off their perfect start when Alan Dunne pointed well in a move where the ball passed through the hands of four forwards.
Frankie Dolan stopped the rot with a close-range free in the 11th minute after Senan Kilbride was upended, and a minute later the excellent Cathal McHugh grabbed a second for the Roscommon men.
The rampaging Peter Domican got in on the act at the midway point of the half when he blasted over the bar from close range after Darren Dolan had picked him out with a brilliant pass over the top.
Kilbride drew the Kiltoom side level with his first point, before Brian Egan's second free from 45 metres gave Tourlestrane a 0-5 to 0-4 lead at the break.
Early in the second half the sides exchanged points, but a run of nine points in 18 minutes from St Brigid's, with a solitary score in return from Brendan Egan, ended the Tourlestrane challenge. It was the link-up play between Frankie Dolan and Kilbride that caught the eye.
The full-forward hit the first three points of the nine, before Damien Kelleher landed his second of the half to give Brigid's a two-point lead. A Karol Mannion punched effort was followed by a pair of frees from Kilbride as last year's All-Ireland finalists threatened to run riot.
Tourlestrane must be credited for their endeavour as they continued to battle for every ball.
However, at times their effort spilled over and corner-forward Brian Egan picked up two yellow cards in the 50th and 54th minutes as Tourlestrane were reduced to 14 men. From then on Tourlestrane were fighting a losing battle, but substitute John Quinn tagged on two late frees for the Sligo men, which put a fairer gloss on the scoreboard.
Stiffer tests await Noel O'Brien's St Brigid's further down the line, but they remain on course to defend their provincial crown for the first time in their history.
Scorers - St Brigid's: S Kildride 0-6 (4f), F Dolan 0-4 (3f), D Kelleher 0-2, C McHugh, D Dolan, K Mannion, P Domican 0-1 each. Tourlestrane: Brian Egan 0-3f, G Gaughan, J Quinn (2f) 0-2 each, D Dunne, Brendan Egan, A Dunne 0-1 each.
St Brigid's -- J Martin; R Kelly, D Donnelly, D Sheehy; E Sheehy, P Domican, N Grehan; K Mannion, G Dolan; D Dolan, C McHugh, D Kelleher; P Kelly, S Kilbride, F Dolan. Subs: C McHugh for Kelly (42), G Cunniffe for Donnelly (55), G Aherne for D Dolan (60).
Tourlestrane -- S Gildea; C Neary, B Kennedy, N Gaughan; D Dunne, A McIntyre, J Leonard; Brendan Egan, S Henry; A Dunne, G Gaughan, S Dunne; Brian Egan, J Marren, G McGowan. Subs: D Durkin for S Henry (37), J Quinn for S Dunne (40), S Henry for McGowan (50).
Ref -- R McBrien (Leitrim)