Thursday 5 December 2019

Yeats men failing to keep the green flag flying high

While Pat Flanagan's Sligo side have consistently been goal-shy, they have crucially also been miserly in defence. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE
While Pat Flanagan's Sligo side have consistently been goal-shy, they have crucially also been miserly in defence. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If Sligo footballers were in government, they would run the ultimate low-tax, low-spend economy.

Even a change of Taoiseach would make no difference, as is proven by results under Kevin Walsh and his successor Pat Flanagan, who is in his first season as Sligo manager.

It has left the Yeats men taking a most unusual combination of goal-shyness and goal-meanness into Saturday's All-Ireland qualifier clash with Cork in Tullamore.

They haven't scored a goal in their seven most recent championship games over two years, leaving Adrian Marren's late strike against Galway in the Connacht semi-final in Pearse Stadium in June 2012 as their last three-pointer.

Since then, Sligo have played 8hrs 10mins of football against Mayo, London and Galway in Connacht, and Kildare, Derry, Wicklow and Limerick in the All-Ireland qualifiers without raising a single green flag.

While the attack has been goal-shy, their defence has been miserly in the extreme, conceding only one goal in their last nine championship games. It was scored by London's Lorcan Mulvey in Ruislip last year. Since then, they have kept a clean sheet in four games.

A solid defence (Sligo have conceded an average of 12.3 points per game in their last nine championship outings) should have been a good basis to make progress, but it hasn't been supported by an attack that has averaged a little more than 10 points per game in their last eight games.

Sligo hit London and Galway for five goals before hitting the drought two years ago, but their yield was pretty low pre-2012 too. They scored no goals in two games in 2011 and just two goals in five games in 2010.

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They have yielded the low total of 0-35 in their three championship games this year, but, unusually, it was enough to win two when, coincidentally, they beat Wicklow and Limerick by the same scoreline – 0-12 to 0-10. In another uncommon twist, Sligo have twice managed to win with a 12-point total, the lowest winning scores in this year's championship.

Their wins off such low scores are put in context when compared to Fermanagh, who lost twice in this year's championship despite landing a total of 5-28 against Antrim and Laois.

Score-shyness also impacted on Sligo earlier in the year when their total yield for seven Allianz League Division 3 games was 3-86, the second lowest of the eight teams in the group.

Sligo's low-score/low concession game may not be spectator-friendly, but their supporters won't mind if it's enough to outgun Cork, who are on the rebound after the heavy defeat by Kerry in the Munster final.

Cork have not been prolific goal-scorers either, landing just one in their last four championship games. They got none against Limerick or Kerry in this year's championship.


Sligo's two-year aversion to goals

No goals scored in Sligo's last seven championship games and only one conceded in the last nine (as shown below). What odds of a goal fest in Tullamore on Saturday when they play Cork?

2014: Sligo 0-12 Limerick 0-10 (qualifier)

2014: Sligo 0-12 Wicklow 0-10 (qualifier)

2014: Galway 0-16 Sligo 0-11 (Connacht semi-final)

2013: Derry 0-15 Sligo 0-8 (qualifier)

2013: London 1-12 Sligo 0-14 (Connacht quarter-final)

2012: Kildare 0-13 Sligo 0-4 (qualifier)

2012: Mayo 0-12 Sligo 0-10 (Connacht final)

2012: Sligo 2-12 Galway 0-14 (Connacht quarter-final)

2012: Sligo 3-21 New York 0-6 (Connacht quarter-final)

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