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Sligo’s Tourlestrane show heart to see out win as they are into first Connacht Senior football final in 40 years

Tourlestrane 0-8 St Mary’s Kiltoghert 0-6 

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Tourlestrane’s Conan Marren breaks through the tackle of St Mary’s Nicholas McWeeney in Saturday’s AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final in Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada. Pic: Willie Donnellan

Tourlestrane’s Conan Marren breaks through the tackle of St Mary’s Nicholas McWeeney in Saturday’s AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final in Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada. Pic: Willie Donnellan

Tourlestrane’s Conan Marren breaks through the tackle of St Mary’s Nicholas McWeeney in Saturday’s AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final in Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada. Pic: Willie Donnellan

sligochampion

AIB Connacht Club Senior Football Championship semi-final

TOURLESTRANE are through to their first Connacht Senior football final in 40 years after a hard-fought victory over St Mary’s Kiltoghert on Saturday.

Fergal O’Donnell’s men were behind by four points at the interval in Avant Money Páírc Seán MacDiarmada, but the 7-in-a-row Sligo champions showed their experience at grinding out the win in the second period.

They are facing Moycullen, the Galway victors, in the final on December 4th after they emerged victorious over Strokestown after extra-time on Sunday.

This is the South Sligo kingpins’ first Senior football final since 1982.

Meanwhile, nothing worse than regrets in a sporting arena and unfortunately St Mary’s Kitoghert will be full of regrets as an experienced Tourlestrane suffocated and strangled their hopes of reaching the final.

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The Leitrim champions won’t have to burrow too deep in search of the cause of their exit as a failure to trouble the scorekeeper in the second half left them vulnerable to a dogged rather than inspired Tourlestrane who used their experience and physicality to deadly effect on Saturday.

Forcing turnovers and capitalising on a creeping indecision in the St Mary’s ranks, Tourlestrane visibly upped their intensity with the strong wind now at their backs, not allowing the Carrick men to dictate the pace of the game as they had in the first half.

You felt that St Mary’s needed just one chance to puncture Tourlestrane’s slowly growing momentum but in a game that went without a score for 16 minutes in the second half, Alan Foley’s side were unable to get that vital score that might have seen them into the Connacht Final.

It is not as if they didn’t have the chance - Oisín Bohan’s wonderful pass after a high catch on 41 minutes put Conor Hackett through on goal but the St Mary’s man dragged his shot just wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy.

St Mary’s will have regrets about Brian Farrell’s late goal effort - with two points between the teams, the Leitrim champions worked the ball into a good position but a flying block prevented Farrell’s shot from finding the net.

However, despite Carrick protests for a penalty, the spot kick wasn’t awarded and the chance was lost.

Those missed chance weren’t Carrick’s only opportunities with Paul Keaney leaving two long range placed balls short of the posts into the strong wind but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that St Mary’s needed a greater lead than the 0-6 to 0-2 advantage they held at halftime.

John Francis Carr’s in added time before the break became a huge score at it punctured St Mary’s momentum and sent Tourlestrane into the break with a belief that they could haul in the home side and two points inside the first five minutes of the second half gave the Sligo side a huge injection of belief.

That it took nearly 16 minutes before their next score says much for St Mary’s resilience and battling spirit but the toll of that resistance eventually told, the physical exchanges seeing St Mary’s repeatedly turn over the ball in a couple of huge moments.

It was all so different in the first half as Mary’s looked in a different class to Tourlestrane - their movement, slick passing and ability to strip the ball from Tourlestrane’s grasp were all indicative of their growing confidence but the four point lead was scarcely reflective of their dominance.

James Leonard opened the scoring for Tourlestrane with a point inside the opening minutes but after a Jack Casey shot took a touch on its way out, Paul Keaney fired over a fifty on two minutes.

Sean Reynolds hauled in a shot from Gary Gaughan while the strength of the wind was seen when Aidan Marren’s shot which looked heading towards the left hand side of the Mary’s posts was blown wide on the right hand side.

A foul on Daire Farrell allowed Keaney to score a wonderful point from the 14 yard line in the left corner on eight minutes and three minutes later, clever play released the Mary’s talisman down the wing and he fired a brilliant 40 yard effort over the bar.

St Mary’s deliberate play was frustrating Tourlestrane - Paul Keaney turned over the ball and after a period of prolonged possession, Mark Diffley scored a superb point to stretch the lead to three points.

Cathal Henry and Keaney traded wides while Liam Gaughan was off target before a Gavin Reynolds break saw him release Cian Singleton for a fine point on 26 minutes. Liam Gaughan left a free short before a lovely weaving passing move involving Diarmuid Kelleher, Conor Farrell and Nicholas McWeeney ended with Kelleher firing over in added time.

St Mary’s would have been quite happy with a five point lead but after a yellow card for Adam Reynolds, Tourlestrane showed their class as John Kelly helped work a chance for nominal full-back John Francis Carr to fire over before halftime.

That left St Mary’s with a 0-6 to 0-2 halftime lead and their fans were buzzing - the only cloud on the horizon was the worsening conditions and the fact Tourlestrane would have the breeze in the second half. Those fears were realised as Kenny Gavigan pointed after a swift counter on three minutes.

Two minutes later, Liam Gaughan converted a free after a foul on Gary Gaughan and suddenly all the hard work of the first half was undone as the lead was cut in half.

St Mary’s responded well but were unable to get the scores that might have seen them home. Keaney saw a free drop short before a long ball into Oisín Bohan saw him make a spectacular catch before an equally spectacular catch found Conor Hackett unmarked in space in front of the Tourlestrane goal.

Hackett drove his shot low for the far corner, leaving keeper Adam Broe helpless but unfortunately for the Carrick man, his shot carried the wrong side of the far post in a real escape for Tourlestrane.

The match became a war of attrition around the middle of the field - Tourlestrane were looking all that impressive but they were pushing St Mary’s back and the pressure eventually told when Liam Gaughan converted a 21st minute free that had been moved in for dissent.

Three minutes later, Gary Gaughan didn’t give up on a low struck shot and managed to fist the ball over the bar and suddenly the sides were level. A minute later, Tourlestrane were in front when St Mary’s lost possession in the middle of the park - two quick passes later and Liam Gaughan edged his side in front.

St Mary’s got a boost when Tourlestrane’s Adrian McIntyre was black carded for hauling down Paul Keaney near the sideline, giving St Mary’s a man advantage for the final minutes.

However the turnovers continued and when Tourlestrane broke, sub Cian Surlis saw his shot hit the post but rebound kindly to another sub Rian Kennedy as he put his side two clear, even if there was a chance of a goal.

St Mary’s went looking for that goal - Mark Diffley had a poor shot but the great chance came in the final seconds of the four minutes of added time. St Mary’s kept the ball alive and Oisín Bohan found sub Brian Farrell bearing down on goal. His powerful shot was blocked by what appeared to be the foot of a defender with the ball going out for a fifty. St Mary’s tried to work another goal chance but Tourlestrane stood firm to book their place in the Connacht Final.

ST MARY’S KILTOGHERT;

Scorers: Paul Keaney 0-3, 1f, 1 50; Diarmuid Kelleher, Cian Singleton & Mark Diffley 0-1 each

Team: Sean Reynolds; Conor Farrell, Mark Diffley, Nicholas McWeeney, Diarmuid Kelleher, Adam Reynolds, Paul Keaney, Gavin Reynolds, James McGrail; Daire Farrell, Cian Singleton, Oisin Bohan, Jack Casey, Conor Hackett, David O’Connell. Subs: Jack Barnes for Hackett (44); Brian Farrell for Casey (58)

TOURLESTRANE;

Scorers: Liam Gaughan 0-3, 2f; John Francis Carr, Kenny Gavigan, Gary Gaughan, James Leonard & Rian Kennedy 0-1 each

Team: Adam Broe, JP Lang, John Francis Carr, Barry Walsh, Oisin Kennedy, Adrian McIntyrne, Kevin O’Hara, Aidan Marren, Conan Marren, Kenny Gavigan, Cathal Henry, James Leonard, Gary Gaughan, John Kelly, Liam Gaughan. Subs: Feidlhlin O’Donnell for O’Hara (12); Rian Kennedy for A Marren (43); Niall Egan for Kelly (53); Cian Surlis for Lang (58); Stephen Henry for Leonard (64)

Referee: Liam Devaney (Mayo).


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