Two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second-half – Liam Silke and Johnny Heaney on target –helped give Galway a 13-point win over Sligo at Markievicz Park but they were made to work hard for this win. 

The main talking point in the build-up to this Connacht semi-final was would the outcome at Markievicz Park would mirror that of last year’s clash in Salthill, then a 21-point win for Galway, who bagged 28 scores in an all-powerful waltz.

Sligo’s form in the Allianz Football League earlier this year – relegation from Division Three after seven losses – suggested a brutally long afternoon was in store for Paul Taylor’s men; Galway, in contrast, finished fourth in the top tier.

But the counties’ recent provincial clashes gave a glimmer of hope to the hosts – since 2007 it was three wins each, with Sligo still talking about their Connacht final win over the Tribesmen 12 years ago.

Sligo drew first blood with a pointed free from Niall Murphy and Liam Silke cancelled this out with a Galway score from close-range – these were the only scores of the opening 18 minutes.

There were also three bookings in the early stages – two for Galway and one for Sligo – with the visitors also hampered by Kieran Molloy’s enforced withdrawal with a shoulder injury.

Points from Fiontan O’Curraoin, Shane Walsh and Michael Daly gave Galway some breathing space by the 24th minute as they led 0-4 to 0-1, with Sligo’s admirable work-rate undermined by three wides.

Shane Walsh on the ball for Galway

But battling Sligo, who worked hard to contain the provincial champions, kept in touch with points by Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch and Paul Kilcoyne. They were denied an equaliser when Niall Murphy’s point attempt came off the upright.

Unconvincing Galway, who only threatened in spurts, held a slim lead at the break, 0-5 to 0-3, after Liam Silke’s second point of the day in the 33rd minute.

Sligo cut the deficit within three minutes of the resumption when Niall Murphy pointed a free, with Galway, now wind-assisted, kicking three wides before a brace of points from Shane Walsh made it 0-7 to 0-4 by the 42nd minute.

Galway’s breakthrough came when they goaled twice in the space of 60 seconds.

Liam Silke started and finished a move for the first goal – tapping home Johnny Heaney’s ball across the goalmouth – and then Heaney drilled a rebound to the net after Michael Daly’s fisted point attempt came off the upright.

Leading 2-7 to 0-4 by the 45th minute, Galway were denied a third goal when Sligo goalkeeper Eamonn Kilgannon superbly stopped Shane Walsh’s goal attempt.

A brace of classy points from Niall Murphy looked like mere consolation scores for Sligo but a belter of a point from Sean Carrabine cut the gap to six, 2-7 to 0-7, with 53 minutes played.

Galway finished the game with 14 players after Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh picked up a second booked and substitute Martin Farragher added gloss to the win when he scored 1-1 in added time.

But Galway, despite not igniting, were able to keep Sligo at arm’s length and set up a provincial final berth against either Mayo or Roscommon.

Sligo: Eamonn Kilgannon, Michael Gordon, Peter Laffey, Keelan Cawley, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch (0-1), Darragh Cummins, Paul McNamara, Adrian McIntyre, Paul Kilcoyne (0-1), Mikey Gordon, Sean Carrabine (0-1), Nathan Mullen, Patrick O’Connor, Pat Hughes, Niall Murphy (0-4, 2f)

Subs: Adrian Marren for Pat Hughes, 53; Neil Ewing for Michael Gordon, 53; Karl McKenna for Keelan Cawley, 60; Luke Nicholson for Paul McNamara, 65; David Quinn for Patrick O’Connor, 68

Galway: Bernard Power, Eoghan Kerin, Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh, Liam Silke (1-2), Kieran Molloy, Gareth Bradshaw (c), John Daly, Thomas Flynn, Fiontan O’Curraoin (0-1), Shane Walsh (0-4, 3f), Michael Daly (0-2), Johnny Heaney (1-0), Antaine O’Laoi, Ian Burke, Danny Cummins

Subs: Gary O’Donnell for Kieran Molloy, 16; Eamonn Brannigan (0-1)for Danny Cummins, 55; Robert Finnerty for Antaine O’Laoi, 61; Cillian McDaid for Johnny Heaney, 64; Martin Farragher (1-1) for Ian Burke, 66; Johnny Duane for Gareth Bradshaw, 68

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)