New York 0-15 Sligo 1-16
April 19, 2022 By Michael Dorgan at Gaelic Park
New York came agonizingly close to causing a major upset in Sunday’s pulsating Connacht Senior Football Championship clash against Sligo — but instead were left to ruminate on what might have been.
The Yeats County men were given a stern test by the Exiles who, with a better rub of the green, may have secured their first championship win since debuting in the competition in 1999.
The sides were level with just three minutes of regulation time remaining, but crucially down the stretch the greater guile and composure of Sligo came to the fore — hitting four unanswered points on the bounce to close out the contest. New York’s lack of competitive games ahead of the opening round appeared to be their Achilles heel once again.
The last few minutes unfolded with Sligo’s Niall Murphy, who was a livewire throughout this contest, edging them a point ahead on 69 minutes with a sweet right-footed effort from 35 meters.
Seconds later New York’s Niall Madine’s close-range effort crashed off the post and Sligo took full advantage countering with Murphy slotting over his fifth of the game to put Tony McEntee’s side two up.
A 45’ by Sligo keeper Aidan Devanney sealed the deal with Paddy O’Connor adding a fourth for good measure after some good running by substitute Pat Spillane.
The home side, cheered on by the majority of the 4,000-strong crowd, showed little rustiness despite a three-year absence from championship football due to Covid protocols and restrictions. Rumors of an extremely fit and well-drilled New York side proved true, and their direct style of play earned many plaudits throughout Gaelic Park and from those watching around the world on GAA GO.
And, populated with four American-born players – Captain Jamie Boyle, Sean Reilly, Mikey Brosnan and Tiarnan Mathers – the team was almost completely different from the side that lost to Mayo in 2019. Incidentally, Brosnan was replaced by his brother Shane in the second half.
Johnny McGeeney’s side started brightly and raced into a two-point lead after three minutes with scores from speedy wing-back Dan O’Sullivan and Adrian Varley, who was immense registering five points and pulling the strings at center half-forward.
Sligo too started with huge intent as Paddy O’Connor was unlucky not to convert a great goal chance in the opening exchanges.
Backboned by former Galway players Adrian Varley and Johnny Glynn along with ex-Cork star Mark Ellis and former Tipperary full-back Alan Campbell, the Empire State never gave up on hopes of an upset.
New York were dominating the early aerial battle with the impervious Glynn catching three marks inside the opening quarter.
The pressure from the visitors eventually told with Sean Carrabine finding the net after 20 minutes in what will surely be a contender for goal of the championship. Carrabine picked the ball up on his own 65 and stormed forward before offloading and eventually getting on the end of the return to fire low past Cunningham.
The goal was a valuable cushion for Sligo as New York would never get their necks in front again.
Barry Gorman, who was actually born in the U.S., increased the lead to four with a soaring right-footer. Gorman’s father, unfortunately, died on 9/11, while Barry’s brother Gavin was an unused sub on the day.
But New York were dogged and determined, they regrouped and cut the lead back to a single point with scores from Madine and two from Varley.
Another point Carrabine and a brace from Murphy kept the scoreboard ticking for the Yeats County men but New York finished the first half with a flourish and momentum as O’Sullivan and Jack Reilly pointed before hometown hero Brosnan received the biggest roar of the day with a point just before the break.
Carrabine was still causing New York plenty of problems after the break and pointed in the first minute of the half but Jamie Boyle and Campbell – who won a Munster Championship with Tipperary in 2020 – won a number of vital interceptions in the full backline. They were ably assisted by Colin Keane, who incidentally lives in California and has been flying to New York on weekends to play.
Five minutes later and a goal chance almost fell to Madine had an effort off the post bounced sweeter to him, but instead keeper Devanney smothered it.
Madine, a former Down player, reduced the deficit to a single point on 44 minutes with a free and New York were keeping their own with Sligo – despite the lofty pre-match odds against them.
By now, the fast pace of the game stifled somewhat with New York opting to move the ball laterally with Peter Fox dropping deeper into the middle of the field.
Points from Cawley and then Murphy on 54 minutes re-established the one-goal lead.
Boyle, Varley and then Madine brought the sides level but Sligo had the wherewithal to shut down the rally.
Sligo now advance to a Connacht SFC semi-final meeting with Roscommon while New York will take great confidence into the inaugural Tailteann Cup in Ireland in June.
The Exiles will get a bye into the quarter-finals of the second-tier competition.
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New York: M Cunningham (Down); Jamie Boyle (Capt), A Campbell (Tipperary), C Keane (Sligo); S Reilly, P Boyle (Down), D O’Sullivan (Kildare); J Glynn (Galway), M Ellis (Cork), Jack Reilly (Mayo) A. Varley (Galway), T Mathers; N Madine (Down), P Fox (Tyrone), M Brosnan.
Scorers for New York: A Varley (0-5, 1 free) N Madine (0-4, 0-3 frees), M Brosnan (0-1), J Reilly (0-1, 0-1 frees), D Sullivan (0-2), P Fox (0-1), P Boyle)
Subs: C Butler (London) for Jack Reilly (ht), C Ahearne for T Mathers (49), S Brosnan for M Brosnan (57), J Davis for D O’Sullivan (68), A Loughlin Stones for S Reilly (71).
Sligo: A Devanney; D Phillips, E Lyons, P McNamara; N Mullen, D Cummins, Paul Kilcoyne (Capt); S Carrabine, P Laffey; K Cawley, P O’Connor, M Cordon; N Murphy, B Gorman, A Reilly.
Scorers for Sligo: Carrabine (1-3), N Murphy (0-5, 0-4 frees), P O’Connor (0-3), A Devaney (0-1, 45’), C Griffin (0-1), K Cawley (0-1), B Gorman (0-1), N Mullen (0-1).
Subs: D Quinn for M Gordan (25), C Griffin for Peter Laffey (ht), P Spillane for A Reilly (57), C Marren for S Carrabine 6(4)
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).