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Sligo's David slays Galway

CHEERED on by a vocal Markievicz Park crowd in the wind and rain, Sligo pipped Galway by a point, in a fascinating replay on Saturday.

This time they found a way to win in a strikingly similar environment to that which they had contrived to avoid victory six days previously.

Their David has now slain two Goliaths in one championship campaign for the first time -- their David (Kelly) has marked both occasions with decisive goals. However, caution prevails amongst these All Blacks. Still work to do. "To beat Galway and Mayo is massive but there's still a Connacht final to be won," said the irrepressible Mark Breheny, who inspired his side from centre-forward.

After being 1-2 ahead in injury-time in the previous game, Sligo reversed the script. They conspired to fall four points behind after 30 minutes, scored a gifted goal only to immediately toss away those three points before finding themselves two points down with as many minutes to play.

Just like last week, though, it was injury time which provided the headlines, Breheny's astonishing left-footed effort from some 40 yards and the second of substitute Colm McGee's outrageous left-footed efforts (so outrageous it seemed to miss) securing the down-payment on a potential second Connacht title in four years.


"We made a promise on Tuesday night we'd play for the 74 minutes or whatever it was," explained Breheny. "And that's what we did. We never panicked. We always knew we had something extra in the tank. There's a special bond within this team. All year we've trained hard and we weren't going to let that go.

"You can be a victim of your own history if you want and we certainly didn't want to be that. We're all great friends off the field and on the field we give it everything. We just gritted our teeth and we wanted to have no regrets."

There had been deep depression at the almost indigestible nature of ceding last week's nine-point lead, but that didn't last long. It couldn't.

"From Monday evening, we just set our sights on this one," said goalscorer Kelly. "We had thrown it away, sure, but we believed we could win this week."

Sligo didn't score for fully 18 minutes and Kelly barely touched the ball in the first half. Still, when they pressed and harried and chased, one sensed their side possessed the greater hunger and commitment and halving the half-time margin to two points, 0-8 to 0-6, with two well-worked scores before the break was important. Galway's self-destructive streak offered Sligo aid via Gareth Bradshaw's attempted sideline ball delivery to his goalkeeper. "I saw him looking at the 'keeper," reported Kelly. "If I got one of those every game, I'd be happy."

And yet Galway bounced back with three quick points. Now it was Sligo who appeared panicked, taking a number of wrong options in front of goal.

"There was a bit of poor decision-making from us but we kept believing," said Kelly.

Yet even the most devoted would have been shaken by a wondrous Padraic Joyce effort after he collected his own fluffed free and barrelled through several black-clad bouncers.

Then Ross Donovan's sloppiness was punished by Joyce, who laid off to a rampant Seán Armstrong. When he pointed from no distance to put his side two points clear with two minutes left, wise sages nodded mournfully for the underdogs' fate.

"He opted for the right option at the time," mused Joe Kernan. "But if you score a goal it would have been different ... "

He tailed off. So did his team. They did add another point but the flourish was all Sligo's. Up popped the irrepressible Breheny -- "I'd been practising that one in the back garden all week" -- to decorate a salvo featuring three points from the bench. Sligo's strength in depth is no longer a lazy soundbite.

"This only puts us in the Connacht final," said manager Kevin Walsh, a Galway man with size 12 feet nailed to Sligo turf. "You can look at history books but at the end of the day it doesn't put silverware on the table. We have to finish the job. That's the bottom line. Come Monday we have to start work again."