Kevin Egan at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park
The free-scoring football that was on display when Sligo and Roscommon met in the 2018 Connacht Intermediate final didn’t materalise when the sides met again in Longford, but Sligo won’t be concerned as they sealed their place in this year’s Lidl National League Division 3 final.
Ten wides, four shots dropped short and a missed goal chance in the first-half prevented Sligo from racking up a large total but their dominance in defence and around the middle ensured that they still had three points to spare at the final whistle and are now just an hour away from bouncing back up to Division 2, 12 months after being relegated.
The crucial phase of the game was immediately after half-time when Sligo scored 1-2 without reply, despite playing most of that spell with just 14 players due to Bernice Byrne’s yellow card.
After a dour first half when the sides shared eight points equally, with Ciara Gorman (0-2) and Laura Fleming (0-3) leading the way for their respective sides, Emma Keavney and Jacqui Mulligan pointed for Sligo to put them two points up for the first time in the game.
The key moment came after 39 minutes when Roscommon goalkeeper Helena Cummins fielded a high ball but was deemed by referee Des McEnery to have barged through Katie Walsh as she attempted to clear her lines. Cummins was shown a yellow card and Walsh duly brushed herself off to slot home the penalty, putting Sligo five points clear.
While the scores continued to flow intermittently rather than freely, Sligo kept their noses in front and looked good value for their win, with Ruth Goodwin and in particular Laura Ann Laffey taking control of the battle at midfield and restricting the Roscommon forwards to very little possession.
The introduction of Rachel Fitzmaurice yielded an immediate benefit as the dual player burst past two defenders and then sidestepped Noelle Gormley in the Sligo goal with her very first possession. Her shot under pressure rolled towards goal and might have been cleared off the line, if Siobhán Tully wasn’t on hand to add a final touch.
After playing second fiddle for most of the game, Roscommon were now just a point adrift but Sligo were unperturbed and calmly tacked on three late points to secure the win; the pick of the bunch a lovely dummy and shot from Katie Walsh that will be a centrepiece of the highlight reel.
Scorers – Sligo: K Walsh 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), E Keavney, C Gorman & L Boles 0-2 each, J Mulligan & S Regan 0-1 each. Roscommon: L Fleming 0-6 (0-5f), S Tully 1-0, R Finan 0-2f, J Higgins 0-1.
Sligo: N Gormley; A Morrisroe, M McNamara, J Mulligan; N Brennan, B Byrne, AM Coleman; LA Laffey, R Goodwin; L Boles, C Gorman, S Naughton; K Walsh, E Keavney, L Casey.
Subs: S Regan for Coleman (36), U Higgins for Naughton (49), J Breheny for Casey (56), R Monaghan for Keavney (60).
Roscommon: H Cummins; H Ennis, S Kenny, A McLoone; S Bannon, T Murtagh, N Feeney; J Higgins, J Cregg; A Kelly, K Daly, L Fleming; S Bruen, R Finan, S Tully.
Subs: S Lavin for Bruen (40), L Brady for Daly (40), R Fitzmaurice for Cummins (50), L Flynn for Kelly (56), M Freyne for Finan (60).
Referee: Des McEnery (Westmeath).