Gulf in class glaring as Galway ease into decider
Galway 3-11 Sligo 0-7
How do you quantify a 13-point championship defeat in front of your own supporters? It all depends on where you're coming from.
For a young Sligo outfit that made the short hop to Markievicz Park with a smidgen of hope but surely very little optimism, there might even be the consolation that it could have been worse.
Last summer they lost to Galway on a 21-point cricket score - 4-24 to 1-12. Their recent spring campaign in Division 3 comprised seven straight defeats and a scoring difference of minus 48.
On that metric, yesterday's Connacht semi-final was not an unmitigated disaster. They might even clarify that, after Niall Murphy opened the second-half scoring from a 38th-minute free, they only trailed by one.
Yet this game had an air of inevitability almost throughout, even when the scoreline suggested otherwise.
Narcoleptics would have been well-advised to avoid a snooze-inducing first half. The second was marginally more exciting, albeit two Galway goals in consecutive third-quarter plays from Liam Silke and Johnny Heaney killed the last semblance of an improbable upset.
So, as our provincial football season (outside Ulster) lumbers on, the calls for a two-tier championship grow ever louder.
"I feel it is something that is probably around the corner," reckoned Sligo boss Paul Taylor. "We would all like to be up there with the big teams but, at the moment, there are five or six teams that are probably going away from everybody else.
"Regardless of who or where you are, it is difficult - and it is probably getting more difficult. Maybe it is around the corner. I am not going to say right now whether I am in favour or not, because it's something I haven't thought much about."
His Galway counterpart Kevin Walsh would seem to have given it even less consideration. Asked if a second-tier competition would be better for Sligo, the one-time manager of Sligo replied: "To be honest, absolutely no comment."
Back to the match, then, if we must. Although backed by a strong wind, Sligo set up with a determination to contain Galway's danger men and try and hit them on the counter.
For all their valiant effort, shot selection was often poor and execution even more awry: their first-half haul of 0-3 was eclipsed by four wides with another three dropped short.
Not that Galway were paragons of enterprise. They engineered a couple of half-chances for goals - Ian Burke's effort was blocked by the diving Adrian McIntyre, while Shane Walsh's angled attempt skewed wide.
Apart from that, the favourites were often content to play keep-ball, safe in the knowledge that the wind would propel them forward on the restart against opponents likely to flag.
Thus, the half finished with Galway 0-5 to 0-3 ahead. It's both a reflection of Silke's dynamism and an indictment of the game's overall quality that the Galway corner-back was top-scorer at half-time with two sharp points (and one errant wide). By full-time Silke was still out in front with 1-2, all from play.
Fellow Corofin defender Kieran Molloy had long since departed with a dislocated shoulder, although the player sounded upbeat afterwards about his prospects of being fit for the final.
"They put it back in," Molloy confirmed. "I'll be fine, yeah."
His manager was equally hopeful. "I have to talk to the medical team - but it's a good sign if it's a shoulder and it's put back in straight away," said Walsh.
"He's a great fella - Kieran is as tough as nails. He'll battle back as quickly as possible."
When Sligo had the temerity to edge within a point on the restart, it seemed to kick-start Galway into a higher gear as they shot 2-2 in the space of four decisive minutes.
Walsh's renowned acceleration took him into space for a sweet point, his only score from play, then he added a tap-over free. On 43 minutes, another attacking sortie by Silke created the opening for Johnny Heaney, whose fisted assist was finished at point-blank range by the inrushing Silke.
Sligo barely had time for smelling salts before Michael Daly's attempted fisted point rebounded off an upright and straight to the lurking Heaney, who finished off his left with aplomb.
Walsh almost grabbed a third, denied by 'keeper Eamonn Kilgannon.
Two outside-of-the-boot efforts by Niall Murphy were the highlight of Sligo's short-lived three-point riposte.
Galway duly emptied the bench and kicked on with the last 1-4, including a stoppage-time 1-1 salvo from sub Martin Farragher, his 72nd-minute goal calmly placed in the corner.
Afterwards, Taylor lamented unlucky breaks and a few refereeing calls but heaped praise on his rookie team. "I feel for them. They have left everything on the training pitch since the league. So, it is a tough time. But there is no way the scoreline reflected the game."
SCORERS - Galway: L Silke 1-2; S Walsh 0-4 (3f); M Farragher 1-1; J Heaney 1-0; M Daly 0-2; F Ó Curraoin, E Brannigan 0-1 each. Sligo: N Murphy 0-4 (2f); G O'Kelly Lynch, P Kilcoyne, S Carrabine 0-1 each.
GALWAY - B Power 6; E Kerin 6, SA Ó Ceallaigh 6, L Silke 9; K Molloy 6, G Bradshaw 7, J Daly 8; T Flynn 6, F Ó Curraoin 7; S Walsh 7, M Daly 6, J Heaney 7; A Ó Laoí 5, I Burke 6, D Cummins 5. Subs: G O'Donnell 7 for Molloy (inj, 16), E Brannigan 7 for Cummins (55), R Finnerty 6 for Ó Laoí (62), C McDaid 6 for Heaney (64), M Farragher 8 for Burke (67), J Duane for Bradshaw (68).
SLIGO - E Kilgannon 6; P Laffey 6, Michael Gordon 6, P McNamara 6; A McIntyre 7, D Cummins 6, N Mullen 6; G O'Kelly Lynch 6, P Kilcoyne 7; K Cawley 5, P O'Connor 5, Mikey Gordon 5; S Carrabine 5, P Hughes 5, N Murphy 7. Subs: A Marren 6 for Hughes (53), N Ewing 6 for Michael Gordon (53), K McKenna 6 for Cawley (61), L Nicholson 5 for McNamara (66), D Quinn for O'Connor (68).
REF - C Branagan (Down)