Connacht SFC wins for Leitrim and Sligo over New York and London

Jamie Clarke of New York takes on Paddy Maguire of Leitrim during the Connacht SFC quarter-final at Gaelic Park in New York Picture by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Irish News reporter and Tony Tighe at Ruislip

Connacht SFC quarter-final: New York 1-15 Leitrim 0-19 (after extra-time)

NEW York suffered agony at the death last night as Leitrim snatched victory from under their noses to deny them victory in the Connacht Championship at the 20th time of asking.

In a nail-biting encounter in The Bronx, which finished level at 1-12 to 0-15 at the end of normal time, it took a further 20 minutes of extra-time to separate the sides by the narrowest of margins.

New York, driven on by Jamie Clarke, looked set to clinch a famous win until the men from the west pointed twice in the final minute of injury-time to get out of jail.

There was a strong Ulster presence in the New York starting 15, with Cullyhanna’s Tony Donnelly and David Freeman from Clones lining out alongside Clarke.

It was Clarke who set Shane Hogan up with a great lay-off for an early goal to give New York the edge in front of a large crowd at Gaelic Park.

Clarke then hit two points to leave Leitrim trailing by five halfway through the first-half. The Connacht side hit back through Keith Beirne, Ryan O’Rourke and Emlyn Mulligan to leave them level approaching the break.

When Dean McGovern pointed to put Leitrim one in front at the end of a thrilling half, it appeared normal service had resumed.

Far from it. Within five minutes of the restart, New York were back in front through Donnelly and Luke Kelly, with Clarke continuing to cause all sorts of problems for the Leitrim defence.

When Clarke put New York in front yet again with his fourth point in the final 10 minutes, it looked as if the upset was on. But Leitrim refused to lie down, with Shane Quinn and Beirne chipping away at the New York advantage.

In the end, it took a Daniel McKenna free to guarantee extra-time for New York.

It took nine scoreless minutes and three Leitrim wides before Kevin O’Grady broke the extra-time stalemate and put New York back in front.

When Clarke kicked a magnificent point from a tight angle to leave New York two up with 10 to play, it again looked as if history was about to be made.

Leitrim hadn’t read the script though. Trailing by three with time slipping away, first Aidan Flynn then Ronan Kennedy pointed for visitors before Shane Quinn levelled matters in injury-time.

Just as it looked there would have to be replay in Carrick-on-Shannon, up stepped Noel Plunkett to break New York hearts.


Connacht SFC quarter-final: London 1-11 Sligo 1-21

SLIGO righted the wrongs of their shock loss to London in 2013 as they cruised to a one-sided Connacht SFC win at Ruislip yesterday.

The Yeats county became the first side to lose a Connacht Championship match in the English capital when they were beaten by a point, and six of the team that started that day were back looking for revenge.

None more so than Adrian Marren, who top-scored with 1-6 as Sligo punished a malfunctioning London kick-out. Eleven different players got on the scoresheet for the visitors, who made light of the 27-degree heat as attention quickly turned to a Connacht semi-final against Mayo or Galway.

“The most positive thing would be the way we played as a team,” said Sligo manager Cathal Corey.

“It was a real team performance, from our goalkeeper, who was brilliant, to the five subs used, I thought every man came in and done a job.

“We are all the one team, from the lads on the bench to the backroom team, and everyone has just one goal – for Sligo football to improve.”

London themselves have made great strides under manager Ciaran Deely and named seven English-born players in their starting line-up, including five in the forward line.

However, it was up front where they badly struggled. They blew seven scoring chances in the opening 10 minutes, while at the other end Sligo came away with five points from as many attempts.

That sucked the life out of the hosts and as their kick-outs started to go awry, they were hit for 1-3 in a three-minute spell as Sligo effectively put the game to bed.

Niall Murphy was outstanding in midfield, kicking two fine points and setting up another with a pinpoint crossfield ball, while Sligo’s surges forward from deep sucked in defenders and allowed extra space for Marren.

The goal came from the penalty spot on 24 minutes, Marren sending Gavin McEvoy the wrong way after the London goalkeeper had taken out Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch, and by the half-hour mark Sligo were ahead by 10.

London were already in Hail Mary territory but they then produced the move of the game to score a much-needed goal.

Mark Gottsche, who was man-of-the-match against Sligo in 2013, took a superb catch at centrefield and galloped towards goal. He found support in Marcus Mangan, and a slick one-two between Fearghal McMahon and Ryan Elliott saw the former tap into an unguarded net.

A late point from captain Liam Gavaghan cut Sligo lead to seven at half-time – 1-10 to 1-3 – and there was a brief sense of a London comeback when they scored three points in two minutes after the restart.

However, the wind was knocked out of their sails when Gottsche was black-carded for an off-the-ball hit, and full-back Ciaran Dunne followed shortly afterwards for a cynical tackle after a hospital pass from Sligo native David Carrabine.

Carrabine’s brother Sean came off the bench for the visitors and made an impressive impact, kicking two points, and the Sligo substitutes exposed a tiring London defence in the final quarter as the kick-out problems continued.

“We had to manage the heat, the weather was 26 or 27 degrees so Stephan Coen, Sean Carrabine, they are big players for us and we just felt taking them off the bench would help us when we needed to see the game out,” said Kildress man Corey.

“Cian Breheny came in there too and just the electric pace that he added to it.

“We knew if we could get to the last 20 minutes, and them boys coming off the bench, that heat would cause London a wee bit of bother.”

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