Sligo go through the gears after Jack Dowling dismissal to prevail over Antrim
Sligo 0-22 Antrim 3-7
When Matthew Fitzpatrick’s speculative shot looped in over the desperate dive of Aidan Devaney, Sligo looked bound for the championship exit door, but Niall Carew’s side responded with 12 unanswered points to see off 14-man Antrim.
Moments before Fitzpatrick’s goal, Antrim had taken the lead when CJ McGourty converted a 38th-minute penalty, but the sending-off of Jack Dowling minutes later had a huge effect on the final result.
Antrim’s fitness in the closing stages was found wanting as Sligo made the most of their extra man in the baking heat at Markievicz Park, while Stephen Coen’s brilliant eight-point haul after the break was vital for his side. Adrian Marren and Coen shared the first four points of that flurry of scores, which settled their side, while Pat Hughes’ finishing late on and the constant threat of John Kelly were central to this victory.
With a light breeze in their faces, Sligo got off to a great start when Marren clipped over a free following a foul on Niall Murphy, and at no stage in the 44-minute opening half did either side lead by more than a point.
On his return to the team following the suspension he earned in the league game with Armagh, Conor Murray was a real bright spark up front for Antrim and his three first-half points were crucial in keeping his side in touch, but he faded out of the game in the second half.
Two of those scores came in the fourth and sixth minutes from wide on the right — the second was a real beauty — as Antrim found their feet.
Sligo were well capable of causing trouble in the Antrim full-back line, but they often struggled to convert the chances that came their way. The kicked eight first-half wides and their best goal chance was blazed over the bar by Murphy after 12 minutes, which levelled the scores.
Tomás McCann made some room to push Antrim ahead soon after, but a couple of quick scores from Eoin McHugh — he was later stretchered off with a calf injury — and Marren gave Sligo the lead in the 19th minute.
A couple of well-struck CJ McGourty frees saw Antrim retake the lead by the 30th minute, but in the nine minutes of added time Sligo finished the stronger team and three of the last four points gave them a 0-7 to 0-6 interval lead.
The penalty three minutes after the break arrived when Ross Donovan hauled down Owen Gallagher — it was close to being outside the rectangle — but McGourty’s strike was lethal.
Five minutes later, Antrim’s substitute Dowling saw red for his lunge on Breheny, but even their lucky goal couldn’t give them the cushion they needed.
From the 50th to the 72nd minutes Sligo fired 12 points without reply — Coen hit seven of those points — to give themselves a 0-20 to 2-6 lead, but remarkably Antrim’s third goal of the half — and their third score — came when Paddy McBride found the bottom corner.
Sligo’s response was two Coen frees, but there was no coming back for Antrim despite their trio of goals.
Scorers — Sligo: S Coen 0-8 (4f), A Marren 0-5 (3f), P O’Connor 0-2, N Murphy 0-2, P Hughes 0-2, M Breheny 0-1 (1f), E McHugh 0-1, K McDonnell 0-1. Antrim: CJ McGourty 1-2 (1-0 pen, 2f), P McBride 1-1, M Fitzpatrick 1-0, C Murray 0-3, T McCann 0-1.
Sligo: A Devaney; R Donovan, E McHugh, C Harrison; Keelan Cawley, B Egan, N Ewing; A McIntyre, P O’Connor; J Kelly, M Breheny, N Murphy; S Coen, P Hughes, A Marren. Subs: K McDonnell for McHugh (35+8), Kyle Cawley for Breheny (44), G O’Kelly-Lynch for Keelan Cawley (53), P Healy for Sweeney (56 BC), S Gilmartin for Kelly (63), S Henry for Hughes (67), D Cummins for O’Connor (68), P Laffey for Harrison (76).
Antrim: C Kerr (c); N Delargy, P Gallagher, C Hamill; P McBride, D Lynch, P McAleer; S McVeigh, S Beatty; C Murray, M Fitzpatrick, M Sweeney; CJ McGourty, T McCann, R McCann. Subs: K O’Boyle for McAleer (10-37 temp), O Gallagher for R McCann (25), J Dowling for Beatty (35+4), R Murray for T McCann (62), B Bradley for McGourty (62), S Henry for Hughes (67), D Cummins for O’Connor (68).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford)