New rules will bring frustration for players and supporters alike
THE Pat Flanagan and 'black card' era started for Sligo footballers last Sunday in Tuam in deplorable weather conditions with Neil Ewing, the first recipient of this new penalty from a Sligo point of view.
Ewing was sent off for apparently saying something after a free was awarded to his side while he was at least 20 metres away from the play.
These will be the situations and inconsistencies that we are going to encounter this year with these new rules. Personally, as previously stated I can't see this rule being properly implemented through the various levels of the association from senior county football down through the clubs and colleges which will cause frustration to players, coaches and supporters, but there will be more on this at some other stage.
Following his recent appointment, Flanagan has had to quickly get up to speed with the Sligo panel, the last team in the country to resume training after Kevin Walsh stepped down in the summer after five years in charge.
With that in mind, he has wasted no time trying to see what potential talent is available when giving a record number of debuts in a competitive situation in his first game in charge from a Sligo perspective. With a large number of players missing due to injury and the unavailability of some college players, primarily Sligo IT students who are playing for their college it was an ideal time to experiment.
While the scoreline reflects an eleven point defeat I felt Sligo battled hard and competed very well at times but were penalised regularly for mistakes that they made when in possession. This was a common theme throughout and was typical of a team this time of year where players weren't used to playing together.
From a positive point of view, I felt Conor Griffin was the pick of the Sligo players winning a lot of clean possession in addition to using it wisely when in control and always looking for the ball to take on the responsibility. Luke Bree at centre half back was another that showed well with a very assured display despite his inexperience at this level and similar to Griffin concentrated hard on picking his passes and retaining control of the game in difficult football conditions.
I'm not sure what any football manager would learn in situations like the conditions last Sunday other than what were the 'attitude and character' of the players and I'd say that Flanagan was happy enough with that side of things in the most, despite the score, considering the experimental side he had picked.
Midfield will be his biggest concern, while both John and Mark Quinn battled hard in that area last week both were playing out of position. With Adrian McIntyre, Tony Taylor and Stephen Gilmartin unavailable at present it gives the new Sligo manager plenty to ponder in this crucial segment of the field.
Next Sunday at Connolly Park, Collooney, Sligo take on GMIT in the 2nd round game of the FBD League which gives Pat Flanagan and his management team another chance to see players in competitive action with Leitrim. This is the last game in Ballinamore, before having to pull it all together two weeks later for the important Division Three opener against Limerick.
Once again for the second year in a row which baffles me, Sligo are playing four of their seven league matches away from home which is a huge disadvantage and hindrance to promotion chances where once again we are away to Roscommon and Fermanagh after playing them away last year as well.
With Cavan who had a good all Ireland campaign last year, Longford, Wexford and Offaly making up the other teams in Division Three there will be nothing easy in the quest for Division Two football next year.
While getting promoted would be great, in Flanagan's first year in charge, it would be very important to stabilise matters in the league this year with the focus then diverted to the Connacht semi-final Markievicz clash with Galway in June.
In this regard, Flanagan will be very ably assisted by his selectors Glenn Young and Keith Carty who between them bring about 50 years of Sligo football experience with them.
Young brings over thirty years of expertise as both a successful player winning numerous senior County and Connacht club championship medals in addition to a successful career in management in both Sligo and Leitrim the highlight guiding Glencar/Manorhamilton to three Senior Leitrim titles, while Keith Carty has been one of the most prominent club players over the last twenty years in Sligo, also winning numerous County titles with his club Eastern Harps.
After a disappointing 2013 for Sligo footballers, let's hope that 2014 brings plenty to cheer about.