MAS­TERS TAKE ON DONE­GAL

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT -

SLIGO DONE­GAL 0- 8 0- 8

With both Sligo and Done­gal Mas­ters un­beaten af­ter the open­ing rounds, it seemed some­thing had to give. Ul­ti­mately, de­spite the fact that Sligo led by two points with six min­utes to go, a draw was the clichéd fair re­sult.

Ballymote pitch was in re­mark­ably good or­der given the weather we’ve en­dured, but the rain dur­ing the game added to al­ready dif­fi­cult han­dling con­di­tions.

The de­cent- sized crowd that turned up were treated to a tight and phys­i­cal bat­tle of wills rather than a free- scor­ing loose af­fair.

Much of the game was played in the mid­dle third where chal­lenges were plen­ti­ful and un­com­pro­mis­ing. Done­gal had the up­per hand in the first half as they broke quickly fol­low­ing turnovers, cap­i­tal­is­ing on some long kick­ing by the home side on an even­ing more suited to tighter play.

Done­gal flooded out from the back, but pres­sure from a well- or­gan­ised Sligo de­fence kept easy chances to a min­i­mum.

Time and again their dan­ger­ous in­side line were pushed out. While Benny Cas­sidy, Paul Mc­Go­nigle and Michael ‘ Sticky’ Ward all pun­ished Sligo from frees, Paul Mc­Go­nigle took a fine point from play. Paul Tay­lor reg­is­tered Sligo’s opener with a great score from play, and his free meant Sligo were 0- 04 to 0- 02 down af­ter 22 min­utes. Sligo never pan­icked how­ever. A knock to Mark Boland saw David Kil­lo­ran re­vert to cor­ner back with Paraic Doohan drop­ping to wing­back and Michael Moyles coming into the half- for­ward line. Johnny Kenny threat­ened at all times and his point from play al­lied with an­other Tay­lor free saw them keep with last year’s Mas­ters Shield win­ners go­ing in at 0- 04 apiece at the break.

The sec­ond half saw no let- up in in­ten­sity; it ac­tu­ally in­creased. Every ball was con­tested fiercely. Adrian McColgan’s in­tro­duc­tion to Done­gal’s half- back line brought great pace to pro­ceed­ings and an early break by him de­served a score. Done­gal added an­other Paul McGona­gle free be­fore Benny Cas­sidy wrig­gled free to score a fine in­di­vid­ual score from play to bal­ance out two Paul Tay­lor frees. Un­for­tu­nately, Paul Tay­lor in­jured his quad in scor­ing a 40 me­tre free, and his free- tak­ing and gen­eral play was a loss to the home side, es­pe­cially as they were start­ing to en­joy a pur­ple patch in pos­ses­sion terms. Johnny Kenny and Michael Moyles asked ques­tions of the tight Done­gal backs, with sub­sti­tute Blair Fo­ley rel­ish­ing the scram­ble for loose ball. Moyles picked off two fine scores from the left, one fol­low­ing a sweep­ing move see­ing him fed by Kenny. Sligo then squan­dered a few chances to forge fur­ther ahead.

Done­gal never dropped their heads how­ever, and they con­tin­ued to take it to Sligo. The Sligo rear- guard dealt ad­mirably with most at­tacks, be­fore a well- worked Ger McGrenra point af­ter a ’ 45.

With a point be­tween the sides, Der­mot Browne seemed to re­store Sligo’s two- point ad­van­tage af­ter a Fer­gal Kelly knock- down, but it was dis­al­lowed for a square ball.

In added time, Done­gal’s Paul Gal­lagher found space on the right and his pace saw him drive to­ward the Sligo goal be­fore of­fload­ing to Benny Cas­sidy.

For a brief mo­ment a match- win­ning goal threat­ened but a chal­lenge saw a 20m free awarded that Cas­sidy tapped over.

From the kick- out ref­eree John Grif­fin blew the full- time whis­tle.

The game was a huge ad­vert for the pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion th­ese play­ers have for their coun­ties and the com­pe­ti­tion it­self.

Done­gal or­gan­ised them­selves to be ready for throw- in at 7.20 pm on a Wed­nes­day night.

Both sides threw them­selves head- long in to a bat­tle where con­di­tions mit­i­gated against a high- scor­ing af­fair.

After­wards both sides joined for a pho­to­graph and shared tea and sand­wiches in the dress­ing rooms.

Credit too to the Ballymote club for hav­ing the pitch in such good or­der at a time when so many pitches are closed.

Val Mur­ray and his Done­gal charges will feel they should have got more from their first- half pos­ses­sion while Sligo will rue the num­ber of chances they had when two up to put the game to bed.

Next up for both sides are tricky en­coun­ters: Done­gal host last year’s beaten All- Ire­land fi­nal­ists Ca­van; Sligo host Gal­way, a team who won three- in- a- row from 2012 on. SLIGO: Gerry Dooner; Damien Kelly, De­clan Caw­ley, Mark Boland; Mor­gan McCor­mack, David Durkin, David Kil­lo­ran; Con O’Meara, Ea­monn O’Hara; Paraic Doohan, Paul Tay­lor ( 0- 5, 5f), Johnny Kenny ( 0- 1); Der­mot Browne, Fer­gal Kelly, Nigel Clancy. Subs: Michael Moyles ( 0- 2), Christy Walsh, Blair Fo­ley, Terry Far­relly, Ro­nan Keane, Fin­tan Kennedy, Martin Nealon. DONE­GAL: Martin Gille­spie; Char- lie Do­herty, Ea­monn Do­herty, John A. McMul­lan; Kerry Ryan, Sean McDaid, Michael McShane; David McShane, Char­lie Gal­lagher; Paul Mc­Go­nigle ( 0- 2,1f), Ger­ard McGrenra ( 0- 1), Stephen Mc­Go­nigle; Benny Cas­sidy ( 0- 4,3f), Brian McLaugh­lin, Michael Ward ( 0- 1, f). Subs. used, Adrian McColgan, Char­lie Bon­ner, Paul Gal­lagher.

Sligo full- back De­clan Caw­ley in ac­tion.

Some of the club’s young hurlers on a trip to Croke Park.

Joe Mur­phy pre­sent­ing the Shield to captain Tadhg Doggett.

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