Saturday 20 January 2018

Sligo manager Niall Carew flew by helicopter to Castlebar to avoid missing Connacht quarter-final with Mayo

Carew arrives for Sligo's match against Mayo
Carew arrives for Sligo's match against Mayo
21 May 2017; Sligo manager Niall Carew arrives prior to the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Mayo and Sligo at Elvery's MacHale Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Jack O'Toole

Sligo manager Niall Carew was forced to take a helicopter from his home in Kildare to Castlebar to avoid missing The Yeats County's Connacht quarter-final with Mayo last Sunday.

Carew was at Cooleragh Church in Naas on the morning of the game to attend his son Paidi's First Holy Communion, before flying directly to Castlebar to attend his side's clash with Mayo at MacHale Park at 2pm.

Unable to complete the two-and-a-half hour drive from his home in Donadea to MacHale Park, Carew left the church at 10:25am to drive home, where he was then flown from his house to Castlebar by Executive Helicopters, where he landed at approximately 11:15am.

The Sligo manager then made his way to the Breaffy House Hotel where he greeted the Sligo squad, who were having their pre-match meal, before the team left for MacHale Park to take on last year's All-Ireland finalists Mayo.

Sligo got off to a flying start and managed to stick with Stephen Rochford's side throughout the first-half until All Stars Young Footballer of the Year Diarmuid O'Connor broke through the visitors' defence to score the first goal of the game.

O'Connor's timely strike gave Mayo a four-point lead heading into half-time, which they would then defend for the entirety of the second-half, with Cillian O'Connor's questionable goal five minutes from full-time killing off any chance Sligo had of a comeback.

Carew said that O'Connor's opener just before half-time should have been disallowed by referee Sean Hurson, and that by allowing play to unfold, the forward's goal ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.

"We performed very well but the biggest problem we had was the goal they scored before half-time," Carew told Independent.ie.

"We contained them quite well, and we were always going to try and unleash in the second-half if we stayed with them, but the goal we conceded, if you watch it again, the referee was giving advantage and O'Connor took 12 steps, three times more than the required number of steps in the rules.

"That would have made it a two-point game at half-time, so if you consider that, we really went at them in the second-half which was always the plan.

With four minutes to go on the clock, there was only a goal in it, and that goal should have been disallowed. He then allowed the second goal for a blatant pickup, right in front of him.

"We're not going to beat Mayo, or any top team in the country, unless everything goes our way in terms of decisions. The referee just made two mistakes, and he's only human, but I'm only human as well, and I'm entitled to be disappointed over those two big decisions".

Sligo will return to training on Friday before breaking for club fixtures this weekend. Carew's squad will then regroup for a few challenge matches before getting back together for the first round of qualifiers for the All-Ireland championship on June 17.

Carew said that his goal is to advance through the qualifiers and progress to the quarter-finals, which he claims should be a realistic target for Division 2 & 3 counties.

"I think for most Division 2 & 3 teams getting to the last eight is realistic," added the Kildare native.

"You're assuming you won't meet the top three or four teams in those qualifiers, now you could, but if we perform the way we did against Mayo, and tidy up a few things and get a couple of decisions to go our way, it's very realsitic.

"I'm not saying we're going to win the All-Ireland but our goal has to be to get to the last eight".

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