Monday 19 February 2018

Heartbreak for Minors

Sligo 0-15 Derry 1-13

Richie Mullan of Derry in action against Ciaran O’Dowd of Sligo during the All-Ireland Quarter Final
Richie Mullan of Derry in action against Ciaran O’Dowd of Sligo during the All-Ireland Quarter Final

Emma Gallagher

Sligo minors came devastatingly close to reaching their first All-Ireland semi-final in almost 50 years when they lost by just a point to fancied Derry in Ballybofey.

It was an agonising finish for David Cummins's battling Sligo side who showed tremendous skill and determination in this fantastic game of football. 

The Yeats men, with Curry's Red Óg Murphy having a sensational performance with 11 points, fought right to the end.

Depsite Derry looking comfortable, leading by three points with ten minutes to go, Sligo came right back into it, three points on the trot from Cian Brett and two from the outstanding Murphy to level it with two minutes to go but it was heartbreak for Sligo. 

The excellent Barry Gorman saw his brilliant effort come off the upright in injury time and the Northerns went on the attack, with  Patrick Quigg getting the winning score. 

Derry who had eased past Cavan in the Ulster final were favourites going into this Quarter-Final but at the interval it was very much Sligo who were putting their mark on the game, ahead by ten points to six at the break, with the lively Murphy causing all sorts of problems for the Derry defence as he notched eight of Sligo's points in the opening half.

The Derry supporters, which was larger in numbers, were remarking at half-time that their side were asleep as Sligo were fighting and tackling hard, led by Gorman at centre-field. In contrast, Sligo were much more clinical up front, hitting one wide compared to Derry's nine as the Nothern men looked slightly frustrated.

The teams were level twice in the first half but it was Cummins' charges who took control. Murphy's free-taking was superb, he slotted over his third placed ball as Sligo led three points to two with only nine minutes played. 

Further scores from Ciarán O'Dowd and Gorman had the Yeats County in front by two on 16 minutes. Oisín McWilliams got one back for Derry and they had a certain goal chance denied by Alan Davey in the Sligo goal on 21 minutes with a great save.

From here it was all Sligo, with Murphy scoring five point as Sligo were working the ball well to lead by four at the break.

Sligo got off to a perfect start, Gorman pointing his second shortly after the resumption, but Derry began to come back into the game. Points from the hardworking McWilliams, Quigg and Odhran Quinn had them within two points before Murphy pointed a free on Oisn Conlon to give Sligo a three point lead on 40 minutes. This signalled a scoring spree from Derry as they went from three down to three in front, a close-range free for McWilliams was followed by the only goal of the game on 43 minutes.

It was Tiarnan McHugh who used his height advantage to shrug off the Sligo defence and he passed to the oncoming Richie Mullan who slotted into the back of the net, giving Derry the lead for the first time in the match. A point from Quinn was added to by Quigg on 49 minutes as Derry were looking comfortable going into the last ten minutes, ahead by three points. 

The game was by no means over and the fingernails were well chewed by both supporters, frantically edging their team on. 

Sligo were by no means finished and they kept the comeback alive, Luke Towey tirelessly working. Cian Brett got an excellent score from play on 53 minutes, which was followed by another free from Murphy after Brian Cox was bundled to the ground, Sligo closing the gap to one point with three minutes remaining. 

Who else but the sensational Murphy had the Sligo support delirious when he sent over a fabulous point from distance as five minutes of injury time was imminent.

Lady luck was not on Sligo's side when Gorman saw his shot unluckily coming off the upright as Quigg pointed the winner for Derry. 

Sligo Champion

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