EirGrid GAA Connacht U21 Football Final
Galway 3-20
Sligo 2-14
After Extra time

Played in beautiful conditions at the scenic Markievicz Park, there was to be no fairy-tale first ever Connacht U21 title for Sligo in the last ever game played in the competition, as Galway won their nineteenth title at the age group after extra time in a pulsating contest.

Sligo started with intent, rattling off the first three points of the game from Gaughan, McLoughlin and an O’Connor free. The Yeats county men were completely dominant at midfield in the opening exchanges, their hunger for possession clearly evident as they pinced on every breaking ball.. Rob Finnerty opened Galway’s account, but Liam Gaughan responded instantly with the point of the match with the outside of his left boot from the left wing. Sligo’s fullback line were ferociously tackling, turning Galway over numerous times to halt attacks. In a fine open game with lots of kick passing, Sligo’s goal was a huge moment, Alan McLoughlin rifling to the net from the deck after a fine save after Ronán Ó’Beoláin denied Kyle Cawley’s low effort. As time ticked into injury time in the first half, Galway looked in serious trouble, trailing 1-7 to 0-2. However, 3 straight points from Cooke, Brady and Finnerty saw the Tribesmen head for the dressing room trailing only by 5.

Galway came out for the second half and showed they meant business with Cein D’Arcy catching the throw in and storming through to kick the opening point of the half. With the next play, Michael Daly went through the middle, played a one-two and palmed to the net. Sean Kelly then kicked the equaliser, so after a couple of minutes of the second half Sligo’s 5 point lead had evaporated. Man of the match Cillian McDaid then stormed into the game, driving forward and taking some fine long range points and showing huge leadership when it was needed most. Galway led by 4 with 10 minutes to go, but Sligo showed great heart to fight back and kicked the next 2. Then came the decisive moment of normal time, a high hopeful ball from O’Connor into the Galway square saw goalie Ronan Ó’Beoláin advance from his goal and collide with Alan McLoughlin. Referee Paddy Neilan awarded the spot kick and Kyle Cawley confidently dispatched to the bottom corner. Galway got their noses in front again, an ice cool Rob Finnerty scoring a great free from the wing infront of the stand to put them a point up. However Sligo had one last attack and managed to manufacture a free for themselves after patient build up play with the 4 minutes injury time elapsed. Liam Gaughan was the coolest man in Markievicz Park and he slotted the free from 30 yards to send the game to extra time.

Extra time turned out to be a step too far for Sligo, who looked to have spent every drop of energy they had in normal time. A goal from Sean Kelly after a flowing team move helped them to an eight point half time lead. Kelly was one of the Galway subs who made a massive contribution to their victory, along with Cein D’Arcy and Eoin Finnerty. As darkness fell Galway expertly saw out the game, and captain Michael Daly lifted the cup with Galway looking forward to a huge All-Ireland semi final against favourites Kerry in two week’s time.

SLIGO: D Cafferkey; E McGuinness, L Nicholson, M Gordon; G O’Kelly-Lynch, P McNamara, S Power; D Cummins, P Kilcoyne; S Connolly, P O’Connor (0-5, 3f), J O’Reilly; K Cawley (1-2, 1-0 pen), A McLoughlin (1-2), L Gaughan (0-4, 2f).
Subs: S Carrabine for Connolly (35), N Mullen for Cummins (44), J Perry (0-1) for McLoughlin (54), K Banks for Nicholson (59), B Mahon for McGuinness (65), D Cummins for Kilcoyne (65), D Kilgallen for O’Kelly-Lynch (68).

GALWAY: R Ó Beoláin; L Kelly, S Ó Ceallaigh, R Greene; K Molloy, D McHugh, C McDaid (0-3); P Cooke (0-2, 1f), C Brennan; A Ó Laoi (0-1), M Daly (1-3, 1f), C Brady (0-1); R Finnerty (0-5, 3f), P Mannion, D Conneely.
Subs: C D’Arcy (0-3) for Brennan (28), S Kelly (2-1) for Ó Laoi (29), E Finnerty (0-1) for Brady (30), E Lee for Mannion (39), M Boyle for Conneely (49), C Haslam for Ó Beoláin (55), C Brennan for E Finnerty (black card FT), C Mannion for Kelly (75), P Ó Curraoin for Molloy (78), W Finnerty for McDaid (78).

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