Emphatic victory for Sligo in Championship opener in Ruislip
London 1-11 Sligo 1-21
Sligo got their 2018 Connacht Championship off to a winning start in a sun-drenched Ruislip on Sunday as Cathal Corey's men took on London in what was the first Championship game for the Tyrone man in charge.
Leading comfortably by 1-10 to 1-3 at the break, it was the hosts who started the second half brightly scoring three unanswered points but Sligo stuck to their gameplan and never looked in trouble for the remainder, edging out ten point winners. Large crowds came out in support for both sides as temperatures soared into the early twenties in Ruislip in what was perfect conditions for spectators but challenging for the players. There was Sligo interest on the London team with Geevagh's Shane McManus and Calry/St Joseph's Cormac Coyne on the panel along with with captain Liam Gavaghan whose dad hails from Tourlestrane.
It was an interesting affair for the Carrabine family from Castleconnor as brothers Sean and David were lining out on opposite sides with David starting for the Londoners. Both were wearing the no 20 jersey for their respective sides. Ahead of the game Sligo of course were not leaving anything to chance having left the city five years ago with a one point defeat. Two late changes for the Yeats men saw Eoin McHugh replace Luke Nicholson while Paddy O'Connor came into the half forward line for Cian Breheny.
The Carrabines' fellow clubman, Kevin McDonnell was captaining the side for his first time in the Championship, the 23-year-old lining out at midfield alongside Niall Murphy. This was a very much younger Sligo team with Tourlestrane teammates Liam Gaughan and Cathal Henry also making their Championship starts for the Yeats men. The more experienced players Ross Donovan, Charlie Harrison, Adrian McIntyre, Neil Ewing and Adrian Marren also played immense roles throughout the 70 minutes, Marren scoring 1-6 including a penalty in the 24th minute after Kyle Cawley was bundled heavily to the ground.
It looked like Sligo were going to run away with the game at this stage but a London goal from Fearghal McMahon in the 32nd minute gave the hosts some spark before the interval. Sligo got off to a brilliant start with points from Pat Hughes and Niall Murphy putting them into an early two point lead with 6 minutes on the clock. Harrison and Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch were causing London all sorts of trouble with their darting runs from defence as Sligo went on the attack.
London did have chances of their own but were unable to convert and it was Gavaghan who got them off the mark with a free on 8 minutes. Niall Murphy responded immediately for Sligo with a fantastic point from distance a minute later which was followed with two points on the bounce from Marren and Paddy O'Connor to put Sligo into a 5 points to one lead with ten minutes played. Kyle Cawley and Liam Gaughan were covering a lot of ground upfront for the visitors as Sligo looked threatening on the attack.
London got their second point from the impressive Mark Gottsche on 18 minutes before debutant Cathal Henry got his first of three on 21 minutes, O'Kelly-Lynch and Harrison involved in the build up play. Then referee Barry Cassidy had no option but to signal a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Cawley who was bundled to the ground, Marren slamming the ball past the keeper to give Sligo 1-7 to 0-2 lead with 24 minutes gone. Henry followed with his second point, all of Sligo's points in the opening half coming from play, Marren adding another in the 31st minute after good teamwork out the field. London then went on the attack, Marcus Mangan, Gottsche, Gavaghan all involved with McMahon finding the net on 32 minutes to put them back within a 7 point reach as half time approached.
Sligo responded immediately with Henry pointing before Gavaghan added his second before the interval, half time score Sligo 1-10 to London's 1-3. As the sun glared down on Ruislip it was the hosts who got the dream start after the resumption with three points on the bounce from Liam Irwin, McMahon and Gavaghan to bring them back within four points on 37 minutes. Then their influential midfielder Gottsche received a black card for an off the ball incident, Sligo goalkeeper Aidan Devaney converting the resultant free before Marren added another free to put Sligo six in front before London fullback Ciaran Dunne was also blackcarded.
Two fine scores from Ryan Elliot and Gavaghan brought it back to a four point affair but from here Sligo pushed on for the remainder. Large cheers saw the introduction of Sean Carrabine for Sligo as he joined brother David on the field of play although on opposing teams. Vital points from Gaughan and Carrabine put Sligo back into a 6 point lead with 47 minutes played. Sligo also brought on Cian Breheny and Stephen Coen who had an impact on the game. Carrabine added his second point on 55 minutes as Sligo looked comfortable, Breheny following with a fisted point to put 8 between them. Sligo were pulling away Coen and London's Liam Irwin swapping points before Ewing and Marren added two more to see Sligo safely through to the next round. Up next await the winners of Galway and Mayo.
LONDON: G McEvoy, P Butler, C Dunne, D Carrabine, M Walsh, M Mangan, P Begley, A McDermott, M Gottsche, F McMahon, L Gavaghan (C), T Waters, R Elliot, A Moyles, K Butler. Scorers: F McMahon (1-1), L Gavaghan (0-5, 2f), L Irwin (0-2) M Gottsche (0-1), R Elliot (0-1), E Murray (0-1). Subs: L Irwin for Butler (ht), C Murphy for Moyles (ht), M Carroll for Gottsche (b/c 38), C O'Neill for Dunne (b/c 42), G Byrne for Walsh (53),E Murray for D Carrabine (65).
SLIGO: A Devaney, R Donovan, E McHugh, C Harrison, G O'Kelly-Lynch, A McIntyre, N Ewing, K McDonnell (C),N Murphy, C Henry, P O'Connor, P Hughes, L Gaughan, A Marren, K Cawley. Scorers: A Marren 1-6 (pen 1f), C Henry (0-3), N Murphy (0-2), S Carrabine (0-2), S Coen (0-2) P Hughes (0-1), P O'Connor (0-1), A Devaney (0-1, 1f), L Gaughan (0-1), C Breheny (0-1), N Ewing (0-1). Subs: C Breheny for O'Connor (45), S Carrabine for Hughes (45), S Coen for Cawley (53), L Nicholson for Gaughan (67), D Cummins for Murphy (71).
REFEREE: B Cassidy (Derry).