Thursday 20 June 2019

Goal burst helps Galway ease past Sligo but indifferent form continues to be a worry for Kevin Walsh

Sligo 0-7 Galway 3-11

Galway manager Kevin Walsh and Sligo manager Paul Taylor shake hands following the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship semi-final match between Sligo and Galway at Markievicz Park in Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Galway manager Kevin Walsh and Sligo manager Paul Taylor shake hands following the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship semi-final match between Sligo and Galway at Markievicz Park in Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Defending champions Galway reached their fourth Connacht football final on the spin when they eventually overwhelmed Sligo at Markievicz Park before an attendance of 5,365.

Last year in Salthill, Galway had 18 points to spare over the Yeats County. This time the margin was 13 but it flattered the Tribesmen, who were two points ahead at the break and scored 1-1 in injury time through Corofin substitute Martin Farragher.

Galway boss Kevin Walsh was in charge of Sligo when they last beat Galway in Connacht in 2012, but the value of football stock in the Yeats County has diminished much in the interim. The extent of the rebuilding programme being undertaken by Paul Tayulor was underlined by the fact that they fielded just five survivors from last year's game.

Perhaps Galway are holding something in reserve for the bigger days but this was their second successive indifferent championship performance – they struggled to beat London in the quarter-final.

But for a two-goal salvo in three minutes early in the second half, they never exhibited the gulf in class which exists between a team that contested last year's All-Ireland semi-final and one which that hasn't won a competitive game since beating London last summer.

A feature of the game was that the leading scorer from play was Galway corner-back Liam Silke, who bagged 1-2 – his goal was the only highlight of a tie woefully short on entertainment and he deservedly picked up the Man of the Match award.

The early exchanges were dominated by fractured play and a series of off the ball incidents, so much so that after 15 minutes there had been more bookings than scores, with Galway's Danny Cummins and Sean Andy O'Ceallaigh and Sligo's Pat Hughes picking up yellow cards, while the teams were deadlocked at 0-1 each.

The visitors found it exceedingly difficult to penetrate Sligo's massed defence and they lost Corofin's Kieran Molloy with an injury after 15 minutes. Sligo were reliant on long range punts but though they were playing with a strong breeze, their accuracy was poor.

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The near silence in which was match was being played underlined how poor the fare was. Both teams were obsessed with short passing at every opportunity, and 25 minutes had passed before Shane Walsh became the first Galway forward to score from play.

It was 0-4 to 0-3 after half an hour, with Sligo growing in confidence and hitting back-to-back points from play for the first time. Their counter-attacking passing game was becoming more efficient and team captain Niall Murphy missed a great chance of kicking the equaliser when his shot from 30 metres rebounded into play off the upright.

Galway, whose leading scorer from play in the first half was their unmarked defender Silke, led 0-5 to 0-3 at the interval after what was unquestionably the worst half of football so far in the 2019 championship.

Galway kicked three wides in the first three minutes of the second half while Niall Murphy landed a free to leave a point between the sides. But Galway finally found some traction, hitting 2-2 in a three minute spell with Silke and Johnny Heaney getting the goals to finally put some daylight between the sides.

The visitors' change in approach – they started running directly at the Sligo defence instead of trying to pass their way through the massed backline - paid immediate dividend and it took a brilliant stop from rookie Sligo goalkeeper Eamonn Killgannon to prevent Walsh notching a third Galway goal in the 46th minute.

But Sligo refused to yield and kicked the next three points – all from play – with team captain Niall Murphy notching a brace and Sean Carrabine adding another.

But there was no real prospect of Sligo staging a dramatic recovery and the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion as both camps emptied their respective benches. Late substitute Martin Farragher hit 1-1 in injury time to give the visitors a flattering 13-point win in a contest which won't live long in the memory bank.

Sean Andy O Ceallaigh was sent off near the end after picking up his second yellow card, but Kevin Walsh's real concern will be the team's indifferent form so far in the championship.

Galway: B Power; E Kerin, S A O Ceallaigh, L Silke (1-2); K Molloy, G Bradshaw, J Daly; T Flynn, F O Curraoin (0-1); S Walsh (0-5, 3f), M Daly (0-1), J Heaney (1-0); A O Laoi, I Burke, D Cummins Subs: G O'Donnell for Molloy 15m; E Brannigan (0-1) for Cummins 55m; R Finnerty for O Laoi 61m, C McDaid for Heaney 65m. M Farragher (1-1) for Burke 62m, J Duane for Bradshaw 67m

Sligo: E Killgannon; P Laffey, Michael Gordon, K Cawley; G O'Kelly-Lynch (0-1), D Cummins, P McNamara; A McIntyre, P Kilcoyne (0-1); Mikey Gordan, S Carrabine (0-1), N Mullen, P O'Connor, P Hughes, N Murphy (0-4, 2f). Subs: A Marren for Hughes 52m; N Ewing for Michael Gordon 52m. K McKenna for Cawley 61m, L Nicholson for McNamara 65m, D Quinn for O'Connor 67m

Referee: Ciaran Brannigan (Down)

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