Allianz FL D4 Final: Murphy inspires Sligo to victory
Allianz National Football League, Division 4 final
SLIGO 2-10 WICKLOW 0-14
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
The battle of the old Crossmaglen colleagues ended with victory for Tony McEntee and his Sligo team who overcame poor conditions to claim the Allianz NFL Division 4 title.
Niall Murphy's 1-4 haul was decisive at Croke Park where Sligo capped promotion from Division 3 with the title outright, setting themselves up nicely for next weekend's Connacht SFC opener in London.
A strong third quarter that also yielded a goal for Paul Kilcoyne put Sligo on the front foot having trailed at half-time and they made no mistake from there.
There were big performances too from Sean Carrabine and Luke Towey while captain Murphy dedicated the win to their late team-mate Red Og Murphy.
Wicklow are managed by Oisin McConville, a close colleague of McEntee's whom he won All-Ireland medals alongside for club and county.
Wicklow didn't lose any face with this battling defeat, however, and can approach next weekend's Leinster SFC opener against Carlow in an optimistic mood.
Wicklow were by far the brighter starters, putting four points on the board before the favourites had even opened their account through free-taker Murphy in the 16th minute.
Kevin Quinn, one of three late additions to the published Wicklow team, Mark Kenny and JP Hurley were all on the mark early on.
Murphy didn't register Sligo's first point from open play until the 24th minute but back to back Wicklow scores from Quinn amounted to a strong response, leaving the Leinster outfit 0-7 to 0-2 clear.
Quinn's fourth point in the 26th minute came from a free after being pulled down himself by Sligo's Eddie McGuinness who was shown a black card for the foul.
It was the second point that Sligo conceded from a short kick-out that went awry.
They collected themselves impressively though and Murphy suddenly burst into life with 1-1 approaching the half-hour mark to turn it into a real contest again.
Firstly, he pointed from an advanced mark after a terrific fetch.
Then Murphy positioned himself cleverly on the edge of the square to capitalise when a terrific burst out of defence by Nathan Mullen ended with Luke Towey playing the ball across for a simple palmed finish to the net.
Suddenly there was just a point in it though Wicklow stretched the gap again with a Mark Jackson point from a '45 to lead 0-8 to 1-3 at the break.
They got the margin out to three after the restart when Eoin Darcy clipped one over from a free.
But Wicklow didn't score again until the 52nd minute as Sligo completely took over with a brilliant third quarter to move into pole position themselves.
Cian Lally blasted over in the 40th minute when a goal was there for the taking but Kilcoyne wasn't as wasteful three minutes later when he rattled the Wicklow net.
It was a slick move involving Carrabine, who'd just pinched a point, and Lally that ended with Kilcoyne blasting home from close range.
Towey kicked another point before Pat Spillane, being watched by his famous father from the Hogan Stand, got in on the action himself.
It amounted to a 1-4 blitzkrieg in the space of just eight minutes which went a long way towards winning it for Sligo.
Points from Carrabine, Nathan Mullen and the excellent Murphy during the final quarter kept them just about ahead.
Sligo scorers: Niall Murphy 1-4 (0-1f, 0-1m), Paul Kilcoyne 1-0, Sean Carrabine 0-2 (0-1f), Luke Towey 0-1, Pat Spillane 0-1, Cian Lally 0-1, Nathan Mullen 0-1.
Wicklow scorers: Kevin Quinn 0-5 (0-2f, 1m), Mark Jackson 0-3 (0-1f, 0-2 45), Eoin Darcy 0-2 (0-2f), Mark Kenny 0-1, JP Hurley 0-1, Dean Healy 0-1, Cian O'Sullivan 0-1 (0-1f).
Sligo: Daniel Lyons; Evan Lyons, Eddie McGuinness, Nathan Mullen; Paul McNamara, Brian Cox, Luke Towey; Paul Kilcoyne, Cian Lally; Pat Spillane, Sean Carrabine, David Quinn; Niall Murphy, Patrick O'Connor, Keelan Cawley.
Subs: Mikey Gordon for Quinn 39, Alan Reilly for O'Connor 57, Gerard O'Kelly Lynch for Cawley 63, Mark Walsh for Spillane 65.
Wicklow: Mark Jackson; Eoin Murtagh, Malachy Stone, Jacques McCall; Cillian McDonald, Patrick O'Keane, Tom Maher; JP Hurley, Padraig O'Toole; Andy Maher, Mark Kenny, Darragh Fitzgerald; Dean Healy, Kevin Quinn, Eoin Darcy.
Subs: Karl Furlong for McCall 52, Zach Cullen for A Maher 53, Cian O'Sullivan for Fitzgerald 57, Fintan O'Shea for T Maher 60, Johnny Keogh for Kenny 70.
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).