Kelly's brace fires Galway to glory in final thriller
Galway 3-20 Sligo 2-14
Galway manager Gerry Fahy says they are looking forward to taking on Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final, after finishing strongly to claim the Connacht crown at the expense of a valiant Sligo side in an extra-time thriller at Markievicz Park.
When Galway won their last Connacht U-21 crown in 2013, they went on to beat Cork in the All-Ireland decider, for their second title in three years, and now they face an impressive Kingdom side in the semi-final.
"We will enjoy this win because this was our goal, to win the Connacht Championship, and now we can look forward to playing Kerry in the semi-final," said Fahy.
"We are in a semi-final now and we are going to have a crack at it. We have every chance against them."
Sligo dominated the opening half, with the breeze at their backs, with Alan McLoughlin hitting the net in the 10th minute to lead by 1-6 to 0-2.
Galway looked in real trouble when Kyle Cawley tagged on another point, but the visitors hit the last three points of the half and only trailed 1-7 to 0-5 at the break.
Fahy's side had a fantastic start to the second-half and hit 1-2 in the first three minutes. Their captain Michael Daly scored the goal and Galway were level for the first time when Sean Kelly pointed shortly after.
Sligo are the only team in the province who haven't won a provincial title at the grade, despite reaching eight finals - they lost 1-13 to 0-8 against Roscommon in 2012.
However, they didn't fall away and full-forward Patrick O'Connor kept them ticking over with his frees.
Galway raced ahead again only for Kyle Cawley to slot a late penalty and give Sligo the lead, before Cillian McDaid and Rob Finnerty looked to have given Galway the victory. However, Liam Gaughan then sent it to extra-time with a last-gasp free.
Galway, though, had all of the experience and Sean Kelly scored goals in the 63rd and 69th minutes.
Sligo had no answer and they began to tire all over the field, before substitute Cein D'Arcy sealed the win in the second period of extra-time.
"They showed real character, which is what you need in championship matches," said Fahy.
"We got hit with sucker-punches, with the Sligo penalty and having to take off our goalkeeper.
"But those guys stood up. I'm so proud of them and I'm so proud to be a Galway man," added Fahy.
Galway had won 18 Connacht titles before this game. Their most recent success was a win over Roscommon four years ago, and they went on to win the All-Ireland subsequently.
Now they will turn their attention to repeating that feat and Fahy believes they are in contention, with Kerry standing between them and an All-Ireland final appearance.
"We have a big squad, and we needed them because a couple of lads just didn't fire on the day," he said.
"But the lads that came in all fronted up, and they did well out there."
Scorers - Galway: S Kelly 2-1, R Finnerty 0-6 (4f), M Daly 1-2, C McDaid 0-3, C D'Arcy 0-3, P Cooke 0-2 (1f), C Brady, A O Laoi, E Finnerty (0-1 each). Sligo: K Cawley 1-2 (1-0 pen), A McLoughlin 1-2, P O'Connor 0-5 (3f), L Gaughan 0-4 (2f), J Perry 0-1.
Galway - R O Beolain; L Kelly, S A O Ceallaigh, R Greene; K Molloy, D McHugh, C McDaid; M Daly, P Cooke; A O Laoi, C Brennan, C Brady; R Finnerty, P Mannion, D Conneely. Subs: C Haslam for O Beolain (56), P O Curraoin for Molloy (77), W Finnerty for McDaid (78), S Kelly for O Laoi (22), C Mannion for Kelly (75), C Darcy for Brennan (30+1), E Finnerty for Brady (30+3), E Lee for Mannion (39), M Boyle for Conneely (50).
SLIGO - D Cafferkey; E McGuinness, L Nicholson, M Gordon; D Cums, P McNamara, S Power; P Kilcoyne, P O'Connor; S Connolly, G O'Kelly-Lynch, J O'Reilly; L Gaughan, A McLoughlin, K Cawley. Subs: B Mahon for McGuinness (64), K Banks for Nicholson (61), N Mullen for Cums (44), D Cums for Kilcoyne (64), S Carabine for Connolly (36), D Kilgallon for O'Kelly Lynch (68), J Perry for McLoughlin (58).
REF - P Neilan (Roscommon)