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Round-up: Wednesday's EirGrid Connacht U20FC action

Sligo U20 footballer, Luke Marren. 

Sligo U20 footballer, Luke Marren. 

EirGrid Connacht U20 Football Championship


SLIGO 0-14 MAYO 0-9

In the final round of what was an incredibly tight and evenly matched Eirgrid Connacht U-20 championship, both Roscommon and Sligo qualified for the knockout stages of the competition with surprisingly one-sided wins at Ballinamore and Castlebar tonight.

The 3-16 to 2-6 scoreline in Leitrim speaks for itself, but the disconsolate home supporters who trudged out of Hastings Insurance MacHale Park can’t have felt a whole lot better about what they had just seen, given that their team went 25 minutes in the second half without scoring, and were completely overwhelmed by a Sligo side that looked stronger, more direct, and much better able to win contested possession.

The strength of the breeze, which favoured Sligo as they reeled in their half-time deficit to win by 0-14 to 0-9 at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, was undoubtedly a factor, but Mayo didn’t even create chances to test the elements in the second half.

The fact that all three members of the inside forward line – usually the first to be selected as sacrificial lambs when things are going wrong – were left on in a game where Mayo scored just eight points, shows that Peadar Gardiner and his selectors knew that the real problems lay further outfield.

In the first half there was no indication of what was coming, as Mayo raced into an 0-4 to 0-0 lead, with Oisín Cronin kicking two sublime scores in what was a very fast start. Darragh Reilly was desperately unlucky not to add a goal when he fielded a short Sligo kickout and immediately sent it back over the goalkeeper’s head, only to see it crash off the crossbar and out into safety.

Sligo gritted their teeth and got back into the game through hard earned points from Ronan Niland (a shot for goal that had to be parried over by David Dolan), Mark McDaniel and Connor Flynn, but at 0-7 to 0-3 at the interval, it still felt like Mayo were entitled to be fractionally the happier side at the interval, even if they had racked up nine first half wides.

Ten minutes into the second half, both sides had added a single point each, but the warning signs were there from a Mayo perspective. Midfield was now being dominated by Sligo, Dillon Walsh and Robert O’Kelly Lynch made a big impact off the bench, with Eli Rooney just about to do the same thing, and the chances were starting to rack up at the Albany end of the ground.

Eventually Luke Marren’s class started to show, and the Bunninadden man kicked three second half points with Rooney adding two more, as Sligo piled on the pressure and looked every bit like the team that reached last year’s All-Ireland final.

Roscommon last won a Connacht U-20 title three years ago and they are suddenly in the driving seat after they racked up the big win they needed in Ballinamore to cancel out Galway’s nine point scoring difference lead in advance of tonight.

Ben Guckian’s early goal nudged Leitrim into the lead in front of a packed house, but Shane McGinley was in sublime form from dead balls, scoring six frees and one 45, while he and Niall O’Donnell – son of former Roscommon captain and manager Fergal O’Donnell – each struck goals to give the Rossies a seven-point lead.

Strong contributions off the bench have been a feature of Roscommon’s games so far and this was no exception, with Ryan Dowling, Shane Walsh and Rory Carthy coming into the fray and adding their name to the scoresheet.

Paul Honeyman goaled to bring Leitrim back within seven, but Roscommon, who by now figured that a double-figure win would save them a semi-final hurdle, added a third goal from Nugent and a couple of late points to see out their impressive win.

Results tonight mean that Galway will play Sligo next Wednesday to see who takes on Roscommon in the final, while Mayo and Leitrim will contest the Philly McGuinness Cup final, also next Wednesday.