Sligo had three players sent off as Gary Dolan’s goal saw Westmeath edge a gripping 90-minute qualifier by 1-12 to 0-14 at Markievicz Park last night.
Referee Michael Ryan sent Eamonn O’Hara, Padraig Doohan and Brendan Egan off for separate incidents in extra-time, while Westmeath’s Donal O’Donoghue was also dismissed in a game that was by no means a bad-tempered affair.
Sligo, who led 0-06 to 0-04 at the break, ensured extra-time thanks to a late John McPartland point, which levelled the teams at 0-11 apiece.
Dessie Dolan’s eighth point of the night pushed the visitors in front in extra-time's first period. Scores from Mark Breheny, Sean Davey and Paul Taylor then had Sligo 0-14 to 0-12 in front, but Dolan’s goal in the second period saw Westmeath progress.
Mark Breheny (0-03) led the Sligo scoring in the first half with Sean Davey (0-02) and McPartland also chipping in with points. It took Westmeath 16 minutes to grab their first point and predictably it came from the boot of Dessie Dolan.
The Garrycastle ace added two more with David Duffy also raising a white flag for a 0-06 to 0-04 deficit at the interval. Dolan also forced Sligo goalkeeper Philip Greene into a top quality save during the first half and Denis Glennon also tested Greene's reflexes with a stinging shot from 15 yards out.
The visitors managed to go on a scoring run in the early part of the second half with Derek Heavin, teenager John Connellan, who was making his first championship start, and Dolan (0-02) all firing over.
Tony Taylor replied for the Yeats men with their first point of the second half, then Dolan and Davey traded frees. With O'Hara on top in centre-field, Sligo pushed ahead for more scores and they duly came with substitute Kenneth Sweeney and Breheny levelling the game at 0-10 apiece just on the hour mark - it was Breheny's fourth point.
Dessie Dolan's seventh point - quite a return for the former All-Star who turned 27 last Tuesday - edged his side in front but, in a tense finale, McPartland came up with a stunning long range point in the third minute of injury-time to set up another 20 minutes for the sides.
Dolan and Breheny swapped frees in the first period of extra-time, which came to a controversial close as O'Hara saw red for his part in an off-the-ball incident, spotted by one of Ryan's linesmen.
Doohan and O'Donoghue were red carded in quick succession in the second period as Sligo were suddenly down to 13 men. Worse followed for Tommy Breheny's charges when centre back Egan was dismissed for his second yellow card.
It was hard luck on the home side as they had pulled 0-14 to 0-12 clear through converted frees from Davey and substitute Paul Taylor, only for Gary Dolan, who had gone off as a blood sub, to work an overlap and beat Greene with the most telling blow of an almost never-ending night.
Sligo: P Greene; R Donovan, N McGuire (capt), C Harrison; B Kivlehan, B Egan, P McGovern; E O'Hara, T Taylor (0-01); J McPartland (0-02), M Breheny (0-05 (4f)), P Doohan; K O'Neill, S Davey (0-04 (3f)), D Kelly.
Subs used: K Sweeney (0-01) for Kivlehan, P Gallagher for O'Neill, P Taylor (0-1) for Kelly, A Marren for Breheny.
Westmeath: G Connaughton; D Healy (0-01), J Keane, F O'Boyle; M Ennis, D O'Donoghue, G Glennon; D Duffy (0-01), P Bannon; D Heavin (0-01), G Dolan (1-00), A Mangan; J Connellan (0-01), D Glennon, D Dolan (0-08 (3f)).
Subs used: J Durkan for G Dolan, P Martin for Bannon, J Fallon for Connellan, Bannon for Martin, G Dolan for Durkan.
Referee: Michael Ryan (Limerick)