A scintillating display of attacking football from Sligo that made light of both the dismal weather conditions and a formidable Roscommon side, who were riding the crest of a wave after recording victories over Mayo and Galway, was enough to earn the county their first Connacht minor football title since 1968.
The Yeats county were fearless and ferocious in their willingness to drive at the Roscommon defence from the first whistle at Dr. Hyde Park tonight, and they had five points on the board in the first six minutes, all from their electric full forward line of Luke Marren, Joshua Flynn and Brian Duffy.
Marren went on to win the player of the match award thanks to his tally of eleven points, four from play, but for sheer energy and game-breaking ability, it was Flynn's pace and direct running that broke open the Roscommon defence more often than not.
Roscommon were handed a lifeline when Shane McGinley dispossessed a Sligo defender and after exchanging passes with Bobby Nugent, was able to scramble the ball over the goal line to cut the gap right back down to two points.
A follow up score from DJ Hession off the outside of the boot and another from Oisín O’Flaherty tied up the game, but Sligo were undeterred by this quick-fire setback and set about their work again.
The home side briefly took the lead at 1-4 to 0-6 just before the water break, but a ’45 from Kyle Davey tied up the game and Sligo never looked back. Davey’s kickouts were immaculate and gave Sligo a great platform, as he put the ball onto the hands of his midfielders and wing forward Mark McDaniel time and again.
Dillon Walsh and James Donlon carried the ball forward superbly, and while the points kept coming – mostly from frees from Marren – Roscommon needed some key defensive interventions from the Boyle duo of Daniel Casey and Eden Kerins to prevent the Yeats County moving further ahead.
Last week in Tuam, when Roscommon came from 11 points down to beat Galway, three points before half-time kickstarted their run of form. Here, a brace of points from Shane Walsh and Bobby Nugent made it 1-6 to 0-10, and it looked as if the Rossies had done well to escape from the half hour of action with so little damage done to their hopes.
With the rain continuing to fall, the standard of football remained exceptionally high, as the two sides traded scores over the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Roscommon began to enjoy slightly more possession but Sligo remained extremely dangerous on the break, with Joshua Flynn acting as their primary receiver in the full forward line, setting up good scores for Marren and Jack McGovern.
As the game entered the closing stages, there were goal chances at either end, with Sligo full back Conor Johnston doing brilliantly to block a Robert Heneghan effort, while Seán Kelly had to be sharp to smother a Flynn shot from close range at the other end.
As it turned out, Roscommon needed that goal, Sligo didn’t. A red card for Paddy Higgins left the Rossies with too much to do and it fell to Conor McMorrow and McGovern to add insurance scores deep in stoppage time to usher in wild celebrations from the Sligo crowd in attendance.
Sligo: Kyle Davey (0-01, 45); Robert O'Kelly Lynch, Ronan O'Hehir, Conor Johnston; Dillon Walsh, Dylan McLoughlin, James Donlon (0-01); Ross Doherty, Conor Sheridan; Stephen Rogan, Ronan Niland, Mark McDaniel; Joshua Flynn (0-01), Brian Duffy (0-02), Luke Marren (0-11, 0-07 frees).
Subs: Jack McGovern (0-02) for Niland (36), Stephen Donoghue for Rogan (45), Conor McMorrow (0-01, free) for Duffy (60+2).
Roscommon: Sean Kelly; Daniel Casey, James Brady, Conor Harley; James McGreal, Eden Kerins, Senan Lambe; Shane Walsh (0-01), DJ Hession (0-01); Rory Hester, Oisín O'Flaherty (0-01), Ryan Conlon (0-01; Robert Heneghan, Bobby Nugent (0-04, frees), Shane McGinley (1-02, 0-01 mark).
Subs: Paddy Higgins (0-01) for Harley (36), Niall O’Donnell for Conlon (52), Rory Carthy for Hester (60), Adam McGreal for O’Flaherty (60+2).
Referee: John Glavey (Mayo).