Galway 3-20 Sligo 2-14

Super-sub Liam Kelly scored two goals as Gerry Fahy’s Galway side won their first EirGrid GAA U-21 Connacht FC title since 2013 with a 3-20 to 2-14 extra-time win over Sligo at Markievicz Park.

The Tribesmen knocked reigning All-Ireland champions Mayo out of the Connacht championship in the semi-final last weekend, with a 2-13 to 1-10 victory in Tuam. 

Sligo captain Darragh Cummins scored four points from play in the second half when they shocked a Roscommon team who had reached seven Connacht finals in a row in Kiltoom.

They held a 1-07 to 0-05 half-time lead after Alan McLoughlin’s first-half goal. But Galway fought back and Michael Daly hit the net two minutes into the second-half.

Kyle Cawley struck a late penalty for Sligo and Liam Gaughan sent the game to extra-time, before Kelly took over and hit the net twice in the first half of extra-time.

Sligo began well and scored the first three points through Gaughan, McLoughlin and Patrick O’Connor.

Rob Finnerty tapped over Galway’s first point in the seventh minute, but Gaughan cancelled that out with a brilliant effort from the left.

However he should have added a goal to his tally when he raced through and blazed wide and right of Ronan O Beolain’s goal.

Stephen Connolly missed another gilt-edged goal chance for Sligo in the 15th minute, but Cawley and O’Connor kept the pressure on with further points.

And then McLoughlin blasted to the net in the 26th minute, after O Beolain saved well with his foot from Cawley, and the rebound fell to the Sligo wing-forward.

Galway had won 18 Connacht titles before today, their most recent success was a three-point victory over Roscommon four years ago, and they went on to win the All-Ireland that year.  

But Sligo were the only team in the province who hadn’t won a provincial title at the grade. They had reached eight finals, and lost 1-13 to 0-08 against Roscommon in 2012.

But Cawley tagged on another point, before Galway rallied at the end of the half, and points from Peter Cooke, Colin Brady and Rob Finnerty, meant they trailed by 1-07 to 0-05 at half-time.

Sligo needed to calm the game down on the resumption but Cein D’Arcy scored a point, before Daly and Rob Finnerty combined, for Daly to fist to the net in the 32nd minute.

Galway were level when Kelly pointed shortly after but O’Connor kept them at bay. 

When D’Arcy scored in the 42nd minute Galway led for the first time, but they were hauled back when Cawley scored a penalty in the 57th minute.

And even though Rob Finnerty looked to have given Galway the win, Gaughan sent it into extra-time.

But Galway bounced back and Kelly hit the net twice with fisted efforts in extra-time to seal the win.

Galway: R O Beolain; L Kelly, S A O Ceallaigh, R Greene; K Molloy, D McHugh, C McDaid (0-03); M Daly (1-02), P Cooke (0-02, 0-01f); A O Laoi (0-01), C Brennan, C Brady (0-01); R Finnerty (0-06, 0-04f), P Mannion, D Conneely.

Subs: S Kelly (2-01) for O Laoi (26), C D’Arcy (0-03) for Brennan (31), E Finnerty (0-01) for Brady (33), E Lee for P Mannion (39), M Boyle for Conneely (51), C Haslam for O Beolain (56), C Mannion for Kelly (75), P O Curraoin for Molloy (77), W Finnerty for McDaid (78).

Sligo: D Cafferkey; E McGuinness, L Nicholson, M Gordon; D Cummins, P McNamara, S Power; P Kilcoyne, P O’Connor (0-05, 0-03f); S Connolly, G O’Kelly-Lynch, J O’Reilly; L Gaughan (0-04, 0-02f), A McLoughlin (1-02), K Cawley (1-02, 1-00 pen).

Subs: S Carrbine for Connolly (37), N Mullen for Cummins (44), J Perry (0-01) for McLoughlin (58), K Banks for Nicholson (61), D Cummins for Kilcoyne (64), B Mahon for McGuinness (64), D Kilgallon for O’Kelly-Lynch (68).

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).