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.
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)