Padraig Joyce was the difference between the Connacht neighbours as Galway narrowly beat Sligo 1-11 to 0-11 to win the Connacht football final at McHale Park in Castlebar. Full forward Joyce scored six points to give last year's beaten finalists a hard fought victory against a dogged Sligo who battled to the end.

Neither side wanted to give away much at the start and both fought for control of the ball. The underdogs went behind early on when Padraig Joyce scored the opening point of the match and his first of the game. Just seconds earlier referee Jimmy McKee produced the first yellow-card of the match to Sligo corner forward Gerry McGowan.

Galway added to the score board with points from Joyce, his second, and Paul Clancy before Tommy Joyce put the Tribesmen four points ahead after ten minutes. Six minutes later and Padraig Joyce grabbed his third point before Sligo finally got a point on the board through Dessie Sloyane to leave them four points behind.

Joyce grabbed his fourth point five minutes later to add to the Galway score before Sligo finally produced their best spell of the first half with successive points from McGowan to leave his side only three behind. The Tribesmen began to dominate the match through McGowan and Joyce and with 31 minutes on the clock Neill Carew fouled Joyce in the Sligo area and the referee awarded Galway a penalty.

Galway went six points ahead when Savage slotted home an excellent penalty and he added another point for John O'Mahony's side. Sligo added a point before the final whistle to leave them six points behind at half-time.

The Tribesmen started well in the second half and Michael Donnellan added to their strong advantage before Dessie Sloyane grabbed his second point for Sligo to leave them still six points behind the All-Ireland champions. Referee Jimmy McKee produced his second yellow card of the match with Sligo's Mark Cosgrove going into the book five minutes into the second period.

Joyce grabbed his sixth and last point of the match just after Cosgrove's booking before Kevin Walsh added another Galway point to leave Sligo trailing by eight points. It looked all over for Sligo but they battled hard midway through the second half but the Galway defence where solid.

Sligo continued to work for the goal they needed in the heavy rain but Kiaran Fitzgerald worked well for Galway before Clancy grabbed another point to put them nine points ahead. But the fight-back looked on course as Sligo scored six successive points in the closing 15 minutes. Points from Mark Brehony, Eamon O'Hara, David Durkan (2) saw Sligo reduced the scores to five points after 60 minutes.

Sligo looked for that all-important goal through O'Hara as the game started to get lively. But closing points from McGowan and Sloyne were not enough for Sligo as the Tribesmen won the Connacht final by one goal.

Galway 1-11 (14) Sligo 0-11 (11).

Filed by James Shortt