Roscommon come from eight points behind to shatter Sligo's dreams
Roscommon 4-16 Sligo 2-13
ROSCOMMON staged a remarkable second half recovery, coming from eight points behind to beat Sligo by nine in a dramatic Connacht semi-final at Dr Hyde Park.
Having conceding two first half goals against Division 3 side Sligo, the home side trailed 2-8 to 0-6 at the break.
Even though Sligo had lost veteran forward Adrian Marren with a harsh black card, it looked like that for the second year in the row the Yeats County would knock them out of the Connacht championship.
But a goal 20 seconds into the second half from Senan Kilbride changed the mood music of the contest. Roscommon finally found their Division 1 form and went on the rampage outscoring a shell shocked Sligo 3-10 to 0-5 in the second period to reach their first provincial final since 2011.
It was the most dramatic comeback so far in the 2016 championship but needless to say their overall performance wouldn't be good enough in a provincial final.
The story of a dramatic first half was neatly encapsulated by the scoring statistics. Sligo's target man Pat Hughes hit three points from play as did his colleague in the full forward Adrian Marren who also converted a 19th minute penalty after a foul on Hughes.
Teenager Kyle Cawley – who is sitting his Leaving Certificate – hit Sligo's second goal deep in injury time – after Roscommon's David Murray blocked his initial effort on the line while Sligo midfielder Niall Murphy hit two sensational long range points to give Sligo a scarcely believable eight point lead at the break (2-8 to 0-6).
The downside from a Sligo perspective was that Marren was harshly black carded just before the break for a third man tackle. But Marren, Murphy Cawley and in particularly Hughes had been the most influential figures in an extraordinary first half in which Sligo looked the Division 1 team.
Roscommon were ponderous, particularly in attack where their insistence on playing an unnecessary extra pass proved their undoing again and again against a tenacious Sligo defence while at the other end replacement full back Sean Mullooly experienced a nightmare against Hughes.
So for the second time in this championship Roscommon's Connacht championship ambitions hung by a thread. One suspects Sligo boss Niall Carew stressed to his players the need to keep the exchanges tight early in the second half.
All they needed to do was to protect their lead and it wouldn't be long until the frustrated Roscommon fans turned on their team. But exactly the opposite happened. Virtually straight from the throw-in a long ball from Niall Daly was punched to the Sligo net by Sean Kilbride.
Game back on! Even though Sligo briefly steadied themselves with a pointed free from Mark Breheny they now were fighting the wind and a rejuvenated home side.
The introduction of Neil Collins who was due to start the game had a profound influence on the game as he proved an effective marker against Hughes, who still underpinned a Man of the Match performance with two second half points from play.
Sligo held out unitl 20 minutes from the end when Roscommon carved open the Sligo defence and Ciaráin Murtagh found the net to give the home side the lead for the first time since the 13th minute. The body language of the two teams was totally transformed now and when Murtagh converted a 56th penalty after Kilbride was fouled Roscommon were four points clear and essentially the game was over.
There was still only three points between the sides with five minutes remaining but a 68th minute goal from substitute Enda Smith wrapped up Roscommon's first championship win over Sligo at Hyde Park for 27 years.
And although the contest did not produce a shock result nobody could complain about the entertainment value on offer. The 2016 championship was finally found its pulse.
Roscommon: G Claffey (0-1, 1 45); S McDermott, S Mullooly, N McInerney; J McManus (0-1), S Purcell, D Murray; N Daly, F Cregg (0-1, 1f), D Keenan (0-3) C Murtagh (2-2, 1g pen, 1f), C Devaney (0-3); S Kilbride (1-0), C Cregg, D Shine (0-2) Subs: N Collins for Purcell 39m; E Smith (1-1) for C Cregg 50m; C Compton for Shine 50m; D Smith (0-2) for Kilbride 50m; J McDermott for Keenan 69m; N Kilroy for F Cregg 69m.
Sligo: A Devaney; D Maye, K McDonnell, C Harrison, Keelan Cawley, E Flanagan, B Egan; N Murphy (0-2), A McIntyre, N Ewing, M Breheny (0-3, 3f), N Gaughan; A Marren (1-3, 1 pen), P Hughes (0-5), K Cawley. Subs: L Henry for Harrison 22m; C Breheny for Marren (BC) 34m; B Egan for Kyle Cawley 60m; G O'Kelly-Lynch for Gaughan 62m; J Kelly for Maye (BC) 72m.
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)