A stirring second half comeback saw Sligo through to the third round of the Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Football qualifiers after a tense 1-11 to 1-10 victory over Kildare at Markievicz Park.
The Lilywhites, with a strong wind at their backs, held a 0-07 to 0-04 half-time lead thanks largely to the trusty left boot of Tadgh Fennin, but Sligo clawed their way back with a superb second half display.
The situation had looked ominous when a close range John Doyle goal gave the visitors a 1-10 to 0-08 lead with 15 minutes to go, but Sligo rallied with a stunning goal from John McPartland and the boot of Mark Brehony (four points) seeing them home.
Sligo got off to the worst start possible when captain and former All Star Eamonn O’Hara and Brian Curran both left the field with injuries in the first minute. Tony Taylor and McPartland were introduced and a scrappy opening only produced its first score in the 10th minute when Brehony pointed from play after excellent approach play from his fellow forwards.
Kildare hit back with points from Doyle and Fennin, while Sligo drew level when Dermot McTernan knocked over from close range after another incisive build up by Dom Corrigan’s men. Further frees from Doyle and Fennin and a majestic point from half back David Lyons edged the visitors three points clear with half-time looming.
Brehony hit back with a well executed free and could have reduced the deficit further when he broke through on goal, but his fisted effort sailed harmlessly wide to the relief of the large travelling Kildare support.
Fennin, who amassed an impressive personal tally of seven points, replied with another left-footed point from play. With four minutes of injury time allowed for the injuries to O’Hara and Curran, there was still time for McPartland and Fennin to exchange scores to leave the home side trailing by three points at the break, 0-07 to 0-04.
However, with the strong wind behind them, Sligo set about reducing Kildare’s advantage and, despite conceding another point to Fennin, inspirational midfielder Sean Davey and full forward Dessie Sloyan pointed to the delight of the Sligo following.
Fennin converted yet another free from the right to restore Kildare’s three-point cushion, but finely struck frees from Brehony and Sean Davey reduced the arrears to the solitary point. Indeed, Davey could have levelled the match in the 12th minute of the second half when he fielded the ball superbly at midfield, but his booming effort from almost halfway struck the left upright and was cleared.
A sloppy ten minutes followed as Sligo repeatedly wasted valuable possession, and Fennin added another pointed free from close range with 16 minutes remaining. And The Yeats County were made pay for their profligacy a minute later when Fennin exchanged passes with Doyle on the left and the Allenwood man drilled the ball to the net from 10 yards to give Kildare a 1-10 to 0-08 lead.
That goal seemed to serve as a wake-up call to Sligo, who responded with two well dispatched points from the lively Sloyan, to leave a goal separating the sides. And that goal arrived with eight minutes of normal time remaining when substitute Gerry McGowan found McPartland running from the half forward line, and the Coolera/Strandhill man hammered the ball to the net for a deserved equaliser.
Brehony mustered another excellent point from play a minute later to put his side in front for the first time since the 17th minute, and a tense finish saw Doyle miss narrowly with a long range effort as the home side held on for another memorable victory over The Lilywhites.
Sligo: Philip Greene, Patrick Naughton, Noel McGuire, Brendan Phillips, Padraig Doohan, Brendan Egan, Jonathan Davey, Sean Davey (0-02), Eamonn O’Hara, Brian Curran, Mark Brehony (0-04), Dara McGarty, Dermot McTernan (0-01), Dessie Sloyan (0-03), Kenneth Sweeney. Subs: Tony Taylor for O’Hara (1 minute), John McPartland (1-01) for Curran (1 min), Gerry McGowan for McTernan (48 mins), Johnny Martyn for Taylor (56 mins) and Karol O’Neill for Sweeney (65 mins).
Kildare: Enda Murphy, Anthony Rainbow, Padraig Mullarkey, Andrew McLoughlin, David Lyons (0-01), Damien Hendy, Karl Ennis, Killian Brennan, Mick Foley, Ross Glavin, Dermot Earley, James Kavanagh, Tadgh Fennin (0-07), Ronan Sweeney, John Doyle (1-02). Subs: Tomás O’Connor for Hendy (half-time), Tommy O’Neill for Glavin (43 mins), Willy Heffernan for Brennan (62 mins), Mark Hogarty for Mullarkey (63 mins) and Mick Wright for Foley (69 mins).
Referee: Michael Hughes (Tyrone).