By Darragh Maloney
It has taken 32 years but Sligo finally won their third Connacht Senior Football title here at Hyde Park this afternoon.
They beat Galway in a cliff-hanger to claim the Nestor Cup for the first time since 1975. The players and the Sligo supporters celebrated as if they had won the All-Ireland itself but no-one will begrudge them a thoroughly deserved victory.
Sligo have had so many hard-luck stories and moral victories since 1975 but today the team, under manager Tommy Breheny, finally got over the winning line to claim the silverware.
We were treated to a very open first half with both sides having good periods of dominance. Sligo were first out of the blocks and they led by two points to no score after only four minutes.
Galway took over for the next nine minutes and they kicked five unanswered points to lead 0-05 to 0-02 after a quarter of an hour.
The signs were not good for Sligo at that stage as the Galway forwards were starting to find their groove and Sligo could only stand back and admire their play.
Sligo have shown a 'never-say-die' attitude all year and that came to the fore again as Eamon O'Hara scored a peach of a goal in the 24th minute to give them a two-point cushion.
The inspirational midfielder raced on to a pass from David Kelly just inside the Galway half and held off the challenge of a Galway defender before unleashing an unstoppable left foot shot to the roof of the net.
Sligo led by a single point at half time (1-07 to 0-09) but Galway were still favourites to win as they would have the advantage of a stiff breeze in the second period.
The second half was gripping stuff. The purists may not have been happy with the standard of a half which yielded only six points, three for each team.
However, the supporters just got carried along by the tension of the occasion as Sligo tried desperately to bury 32 years of history.
They were still leading by a point on 55 minutes when the match seemed to turn very much in favour of Galway, when O'Hara had to go off injured and it appeared that their chances of victory had gone with him.
But that was not to be the case for Sligo today.
They were by far the superior side in the second half but they kicked wide after wide when they were on top and it looked as if they were going to kick away the title.
Galway could not capitalise and their second half collapse was amazing. They were held scoreless for a 25 minute spell and they also kicked some bad wides at vital times.
Sligo centre back Michael McNamara kicked them into a two point lead late on but that was narrowed to one by a stoppage-time free from Padraic Joyce.
Sligo were always going to be nervous with the winning line in sight and they gave Galway one last chance to force a draw but that was kicked wide by Ja Fallon.
The full-time whistle followed seconds later and then the pitch invasion and an out-pouring of emotion from Sligo people which has not been seen for quite a while – for 32 years in fact when Barnes Murphy last lifted the Nestor Cup for Sligo.
It has been a long time coming but Sligo fans will tell you it was worth the wait.