Heartbreak for Sligo in semi-final
Tyrone 1-16 - Sligo 0-11
Gerry Moane's Tyrone inflicted more TG4 All-Ireland semi-final heartbreak on Sligo at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday. Tyrone advanced to a very first final in this grade as Sligo fell at the penultimate hurdle for a second successive year.
Sligo lost a classic semi-final against Kildare after extra-time at the same venue in 2016 but they were outclassed by a slick Tyrone outfit this time. Niamh O'Neill weighed in with 1-4 for the winners but this was an outstanding defensive performance from the Red Hands, with corner back Caoileann Conway and captain Neamh Woods exceptional. Goalkeeper Shannon Lynch also saved a second half penalty from Denise McGrath and while Sligo lost by eight points, they will rue a final tally of 18 wides. Tyrone led by 1-7 to 0-7 at the break and the final score of the first half, bang on time, was a killer blow to Sligo.
Tyrone had spurned six previous goal chances but finally found a way through when Niamh Hughes made inroads with a devastating run from deep. Hughes transferred to Gemma Begley and her perfectly-timed pass was palmed home by O'Neill. It was an untimely setback for Sligo, who had played with the breeze in the opening half but racked up nine poor wides. Tyrone registered just three wides but could have had more goals to show for their first half efforts.
Ciara Gorman was excellent for Sligo in that opening half, scoring three of her four points from play and presenting huge problems for Joanne Barrett, but Tyrone gritted their teeth into the breeze and gave themselves a three-point platform ahead of the second period. Tyrone opened with real intent, moving into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead before Sligo rallied with two points of their own. It was tit for tat fare from there until the end of the opening half, as Sligo captain and goalkeeper Noelle Gormley kept her side in it with some crucial saves, while Tyrone's Begley, Méabh Mallon and Hughes blazed over when goals were there for the taking.
Sligo managed to finally draw level at 0-7 apiece in the final minute of the half, Gorman converting her latest point from play, but there was still time for Tyrone to strike as an incisive move bore dividends when O'Neill struck. Tyrone, beaten senior finalists in 2010, managed to keep their opponents at arm's length in the second half but Lynch had to perform heroics to pull off a brilliant double save from Sinead McTiernan and Laura-Ann Laffey, before keeping out McGrath's penalty. Tyrone, who had a big second half from Gráinne Rafferty, kept the scoreboard ticking over and could have had more goals before the finish - as O'Neill was twice kept out by the impressive Gormley.
Tyrone will play Tipperary in the final on September 24 at Croke Park. Scorers for Tyrone - N O'Neill 1-4 (0-1f), G Begley (2f) & G Rafferty 0-3 each, N Woods, M Mallon, N Hughes, M Canavan (f), E Hegarty & L Quinn 0-1 each. Scorers for Sligo - C Gorman 0-5 (1f), S O'Reilly 0-2, E O'Reilly, L.A. Laffey, L Casey & N Brennan 0-1 each. Tyrone - S Lynch; E Brennan, J Barrett, C Conway; N Woods, E.L. Mulgrew, C Hunter; M Mallon, E.J. Gervin; N Hughes, M Canavan, E Smyth; N O'Neill, G Begley, G Rafferty. Subs - L Quinn for Canavan (h.t.), E Hegarty for Smyth (44), S Quinn Cunningham for Barrett (54), N McGirr for Hughes (57), R McCrory for Rafferty (59). Sligo - N Gormley; E Flanagan, E O'Loughlin, J Mulligan; L Boles, E Codd, R Goodwin; B Byrne, S Reynolds; Á Gormley, S O'Reilly, L.A. Laffey; C Gorman, E O'Reilly, D McGrath. Subs - S McTiernan for E O'Reilly (h.t.), K Walsh for Laffey (42), N Brennan for McGrath (48), L Casey for Á Gormley (52), M McNamara for Flanagan (55). Ref - B Rice (Down).