By Martin Mannering
Despite playing some of their best hurling of the campaign, Lancashire finished up on the wrong end of a fourteen point margin against Sligo at Parc na hEireann on Saturday.
Captain and midfielder of the Connaught side Keith Raymond was the key catalyst in condemning the Saffrons to their third straight defeat. Raymond pulled all the strings as the sliothar seemed to be magnetically attracted to him and he finished the game with a tally of nine points while he was the architect of as many more.
In a thrilling score fest of a first half Lancs gave as good as they got after a shaky start and went in with just two points of a difference but an electrifying third quarter from the Yeats county saw them to a comprehensive result.
Sligo stormed out of the blocks and were three points up in as many minutes with Matthew Davey, Sean Kenny and Ronan Cox hitting the target, all three were the result of inch perfect passes from Raymond.
Paddy Duggan got the home side off the mark after Stephen Tierney was fouled and Nathan Unwin fired over from distance to reduce the margin to one. Raymond soon fired over for the winners and then released Liam Reidy for another before the clock had turned to ten minutes.
One notable aspect emerging was the security of the Lancs full back Liam Knocker who had an outstanding match. Time and again he fielded and cleared his lines when the ball was sent into the danger area.
Further out the field Adam O’Hare, Seamus Richardson and Nathan Unwin became more influential in providing enough possession for their forward unit to keep their side in touch.
The two umpires on white flag duty were kept busy as the half progressed and before twenty minutes had elapsed Sligo had pushed ahead by five with a string of points while a Duggan free and a Colm McArdle effort just about kept Lancs in touch. It was at this juncture that the home side hit a purple patch outscoring Sligo by four points to one over the next five minutes.
Tom Goulding who caused much anxiety when given the right ball got the blitz going with Stephen Tierney and Dave Coughlan chipping in before Goulding added another. Such was the concern being caused by Goulding that full back Tom Brennan was withdrawn and replaced by Jamie Kelly.
The final six minutes saw as many points with three of them coming from the stick of the imperious Raymond while two frees from the equally impressive Duggan and a splendid effort from Nathan Unwin kept Lancs in their slipstream.
When the game resumed after the break Sligo hit the turbo boost with devastating effect, five unanswered points in as many minutes sent them racing clear while out the field they took a vice like grip on proceedings. The furious pace of the first half and the difficulty of preparing a team based in two different cities showed as Lancs visibly wilted in the Birmingham sun.
They continued to show great heart and won a decent amount of possession but were continually crowded out by their fitter opponents who were now winning virtually all of the fifty-fifty duels.
A solitary point from a Duggan free over twenty two minutes tells its own story as the winners pulled further away with a 23rd minute goal from substitute Michael Gilmartin putting the icing on the cake for the winners.
With just two clubs in the county and the aforementioned difficulties in preparation Lancashire deserve much praise for their efforts and will aim to finish the Lory Meagher campaign on a high when they play their final tie against Warwickshire this weekend. For Sligo one more win against Leitrim will ensure their place in the final against Louth.
SLIGO: Niall McGrath, Ronan Redmond, Tom Brennan, Gavin Feely, Eoin Comerford, Ciaran Brennan, Liam Reidy (0- 1), Ronan Cox (0-2), Keith Raymond (0-9,6f), Gerard O’Kelly Lynch (0-1), Cormac Behan, Brian O’Loughlin (0-3), Matthew Davey (0-1), Kevin Gilmartin (0-2), Sean Kenny (0- 6) SUBS: Jamie Kelly for Tom Brennan, David Collery for Davey, Peader Leonard for Behan, Michael Gilmartin (1-0) for O’Kelly Lynch
LANCASHIRE: Stephen Hennessey, Finian O’Callaghan, Liam Knocker, Declan Walsh, Adam O’Hare, Rory O’Driscoll, Seamus Richardson, Simon Wallace, Nathan Unwin (0-2), Colm McArdle (0-1), David Coughlan (0-2), Paddy Duggan (0-7,6f), Noel Burns, Tom Goulding (0- 2), Stephen Tierney (0-1) SUBS: Michael Gallagher for O’Callaghan, Joe Sheehan for Coughlan, Michael McCarthy for Wallace
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