Sligo had to dig deep to avoid a shock defeat at Gaelic Park in the Bronx to a New York side playing their first competitive game in three years.
Teams were deadlocked with just two minutes left and several former county players including Galway hurler Johnny Glynn, Downs Niall Madine, Cork hurler Mark Ellis and Galway’s Adrian Varley threatened the prospect of a first New York win in 22 Trying in the Connacht championship seemed like a real prospect for the 4,000 spectators.
Sligo scored just four points in the first 33 minutes of the second half, with full-back Alan Campbell, a Munster SFC winner with Tipperary three years ago, excelling in a solid defence.
But Tony McEntee’s men produced a winning hand, with veteran Niall Murphy taking the lead as he kept his composure to land two frees.
And Pat Spillane, son of Kerry legend Pat, came on and made a big impression, winning a free for a Murphy point and then taking Paddy O’Connor deep into injury time for the decisive result after goalkeeper Aidan Devanney came forward to land a clear distance.
Manager Tony McEntee said he was just relieved to get the win and get their championship campaign up and running.
“We were quite lucky, I would say we got out of this one. They had a couple of scoring chances there and a couple came off the posts and ended up in our arms and if any of them went in we would have been under some serious pressure,” McEntee said.
GAA President Larry McCarthy was back at his base in New York to witness another heartbreaking performance by the Exiles, whose only preseason game was against Salthill-Knocknacarra last month and who were down to four players since their last game three years ago.
But they belied those difficulties throughout and were just a point behind at the break, 8-1 10-0, with the Banished quickly taking the lead with good points from Danny O’Sullivan and Varley.
Glynn’s dominance in the air gave New York plenty of good ball and Ellis was in full swing throughout.
Sean Carrabine led the Sligo Challenge with some great runs and good results but he faded after the restart and had to leave with a hamstring injury in the closing stages.
Varley’s second point of the game gave New York a 4-0, 3-0 lead by the end of the opening quarter, but then O’Connor scored his first of the game before Carrabine broke through with a beautiful goal after 19 minutes.
Barry Gorman, back in New York on an emotional journey with his brother Gavin, who was substituted following the death of their father Kieran on September 11, added another point and Sligo looked poised to go 5-1 for 0 with the double score lead. 4.
But New York have bounced back brilliantly with Madine and Varley and they reduced the gap to one by the break.
Efforts from Carrabine, Keelan Cawley and Murphy in response to one from Carrabine gave Sligo a 1-11 to 0-11 lead after 50 minutes, but conceded two points apiece from Madine and Varley, with Conor Griffin scoring one for Sligo the pages just two minutes before the end.
New York had chances to continue but didn’t let them count and Sligo survived as they used the last few minutes to book a semi-final date with Roscommon in two weeks’ time as New York had to regret another missed chance but she will now at least be able to regroup for the Tailteann Cup.
Goalscorers: Sligo: S Carrabine 1-3 (0-2f), N Murphy 0-5 (0-4f), P O’Connor 0-3, N Mullen 0-1, B Gorman 0-1, K Cawley 0-1, C Griffin 0-1, A Devanney 0-1.
New York: A Varley 0-6 (0-3f), N Madine 0-4 (0-2f), D O’Sullivan 0-2, P Fox 0-2, M Brosnan 0-1.
Sligo: A Devanney; Phillips D, Lyons E, McNamara P; N Mullen, D Cummins, P Kilcoyne; S Carrabine (C Marren 65 minutes), P Laffey (C Griffin halftime); Cawley K, Murphy N, Gorman B (D. Quinn 35 min); M Gordan, P O’Connor, A Reilly (P Spillane 56 minutes).
New York: M Cunningham; J Boyle, A Campbell, C Keane; S Reilly, P Boyle, D O’Sullivan; J Reilly, M Ellis; J Glynn, A Varley, T Mathers (C Ahearne 50 min); N Madine, P Fox, M Brosnan (S Brosnan 57 minutes).
Ref – Sean Hurson (Tyrone).
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/sligo-forced-to-dig-deep-to-avoid-shock-against-new-york-41562165.html Sligo had to dig deep to avoid a shock against New York