Probably the shock of the summer at Croke Park, but definitely a game to remember for the men of Sligo who advance to the All-Ireland quarter-finals thanks to an eventual five point win over a highly fancied Tyrone side. Sligo seemed to chase this game for most of the 70 minutes, but their spirit and determination has to be admired. Eamon O'Hara was the driving force behind this Sligo performance, prompting and encouraging when the cause looked lost in the first-half and scoring a number of crucial points in both halves. Tyrone looked well beaten by the end, their potential remaining unfulfilled for another year at least.
In the first 20 minutes, however, it certainly appeared that they would win this game at a canter. The Canavan brothers, Peter and Pascal, scored three points between them inside the first six minutes, and with the full-forward Stephen O'Neill also in imperious form, Sligo were chasing shadows. Cormac McAnallen, and Brian McGuigan also got in on the scoring act in the opening period, and Sligo looked like they would be on the end of a similar hiding to the one they received from Dublin at the same venue last summer.
The game, however, appeared to turn from the 20th minute onwards following the introduction of defender Neil Carew for Mark Cosgrove, who was being given a torrid time by Canavan. Paul Durkin and Eamon O'Hara eventually managed to get a grip on the midfield battle, and the Sligo captain O'Hara charged through the Tyrone defence to land a determined point. It was exactly the example that his team mates needed. Dara McGarty landed a couple of fine points from play, and with Gerry McGowan and Dessie Sloyan revelling in their new found space up-front, Mark Brehony and Ciaran Quinn were on hand to put Sligo just two points behind, 0-09 to 0-07, at the break.
The second-half mirrored what went before. Peter Canavan scored three quick points, two frees, to stretch Tyrone's lead to four points, but once more after allowing their opponents to open up a healthy gap, Sligo decided it was time to play catch-up. Eamon O'Hara set the ball rolling with a booming point from long range, with McGowan and Sloyan both confidently landing frees in quick succession. In between McGowan could have had a goal – his shot just crept past the post – but 10 minutes later Sligo did find the back of the net.
Gerry McGowan's shot from out on the left came back off the post, with the lively Sloyan reacting quickest to beat Peter Ward to the ball and blast the ball to the net. It was an unlikely comeback, but by no means undeserved. In the final minutes Tyrone attempted to claw their way back into the game, but the normally reliable Peter Canavan drifted two shots wide when he really should have done better. Sligo needed a couple more points to edge clear, and they duly arrived from the boot of Sloyan and the veteran midfielder Paul Durkin. It proved enough, 1-14 to 0-12 the final score and the men of Sligo can look forward to another day in the limelight.
Filed by Ciaran Cronin