Lory Meagher Cup Rnd 1
By Martin Mannering
At Old Bedians, Manchester
Lancashire were left to rue a missed opportunity as profligacy and a couple of crucial errors at vital moments left them a point short at the end of a thrilling encounter at Old Bedians on Saturday.
A couple of dubious decisions by referee James Clarke did little to help their cause, but in the final analysis they had this game for the taking and let it slip.
It had all looked so promising early on as the home side stormed into an early lead through two excellent long range frees from Ronan Crowley, which sandwiched a fine effort from corner back Ross Mullins to go three up after seven minutes.
Sligo midfielder Gary Cadden, who was to have a major influence on the tie, opened his side’s account and Keith Redmond added a second soon after.
A seven-minute scoring frenzy began in the 13th minute started by a deft effort from JJ Dunphy and a sublime point from distance by Darren Crowley. Ronan Cox and Gerard O Kelly Lynch from a free replied in kind for Sligo.
There was scarcely time to draw breath as Ronan Crowley hit a free before latching on to the breaking ball, which Martin Hawley broke down from Ross Mullins long range pass, and the Corkman fired to the net.
Again, Sligo responded as Gary Cadden struck from distance and when Keith Redmond dropped a free into the square Larry Cadden was fastest to react and he rounded a couple of challenges to rattle the net.
Seconds later Mullins and Hawley re-enacted their earlier double act and this time JJ Dunphy was on hand to drive home.
Both sides somewhat lost their radar after this until Dunphy hit a wonder point from the left wing and Ronan Crowley put six between them approaching the half hour mark.
The last five minutes of the half were to prove crucial as Sligo reeled in the deficit with points from Ronan McNamara and two frees from O Kelly Lynch.
Darren Crowley responded for Lancashire with a point, but Larry Cadden emerged from a goalmouth scramble to kick the ball to the net with virtually the last action of the half.
It left Lancashire with just a one-point lead after a half which they pretty much dominated and a wide tally that had already reached double figures was concerning.
Perhaps the biggest worry was the fact that Ronan Crowley accounted for three of those, as the usually excellent Cork marksman was having a hit-and-miss afternoon.
James Fitzmaurice opened the second half scoring only to see McNamara and O Kelly Lynch (two frees) put Sligo in front.
Disaster struck for the hosts five minutes in when Pa Coates went short with a puck out which found Edmund Kenny unprepared. O Kelly Lynch pounced and dispossessed the full back and raced through to lash home a goal.
Crowley from a 65 and Tommy Duane kept Lancashire in touch but it was noticeable that Sligo were gaining in the possession stakes.
Scores had become harder to come by and the game a stop-start affair due to a number of injuries and a few skirmishes as tempers frayed in the blistering heat.
Eoin McDonagh and O Kelly Lynch put the Yeats county four clear entering the last quarter before Lancashire staged a rally. Ronan Crowley found his range again and hit a 40-metre free followed by a 65 and a ridiculously wonderful point from out on the right wing.
Edmund Kenny, who had moved forward, had a point in between Crowley’s efforts to level things by the half hour mark.
O Kelly Lynch and Crowley traded points before the referee incurred the wrath of the home dugout. Ross Mullins prepared to collect a long delivery but was clearly pushed to the ground by Eoin McDonagh, but James Clarke saw no wrongdoing. McDonagh crossed to the unmarked Kevin Banks who stroked the ball home.
Moments later Clarke saw a foul that no one else did and Banks hit the free all the way over from his own half.
Lancashire tried desperately to salvage the day. Nathan Unwin hit a 65 and Edmund Kenny closed the gap to one deep into injury-time.
Crowley had the chance to level the tie but perhaps it summed up his day when his free lacked sufficient height, and a Sligo defender batted the ball to safety and that was that.
— Sligo GAA (@sligogaa) May 19, 2018
It was tough on the young Corkman who has been a model of consistency during his time with Lancashire. Even here he also hit some wonderful scores despite a few misses.
Lancashire manager Stan Murray Hession will no doubt have his troops regrouped for two away trips to Fermanagh and Cavan, which are now must win games after they played out a draw in the competition’s other weekend fixture.
There is, however, more than enough talent in this squad to achieve that and Lancashire can still do enough to reach the final, and probably even a chance to avenge this result against the same opposition.
Sligo: Declan Reidy; James Weir, Conor O’Mahony, Tom Brennan; Eoin Comerford, Keith Redmond (0-1f), Niall Feehily; Ronan Cox (0-1), Gary Cadden (0-2); Brian Shannon, Kevin Banks (1-1), Ronan McNamara (0-1); Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch (1-6, 6f) Eoin McDonagh (0-1), Larry Cadden (2-1): Subs: Matthew Davey for Brian Shannon, Kieran Prior for Ronan McNamara, Niall McDermott for Tom Brennan, Conor Gillen for Keith Redmond.
Lancashire: Pa Coates; Liam Knocker, Edmond Kenny (0-2), Ross Mullins (0-1); David Power, Greg Jacob, Nathan Unwin (0-01, 1 ‘65’); Stephen Duncan, James Fitzmaurice (0-1); Darren Crowley (0-2), Tommy Duane (0-1), JJ Dunphy (1-2); Daire Maskey, Martin Hawley, Ronan Crowley (1-9, 5f, 1 ‘65’). Subs: Darragh O’Brien for Martin Hawley, Justin Cleere Daire Maskey, Sean Hannon for Stephen Duncan, Colm Larkin for Ross Mullins.
Referee: James Clarke.