Sligo senior hurlers still waiting for first 2023 league win

Back 15/03/2023 @ 12:35 | hurlingnews | Sligo senior hurlers still waiting for first 2023 league win
Sligo senior hurlers travelled to London hoping for the first win of this year's league campaign against the Exiles but came away empty handed again, losing out by five points in a well contested and at times tetchy encounter at McGovern Park in Ruislip on Saturday last.

The Yeats county went into the game having shot in excess of a dozen wides in each of their three previous games and will be relieved to have addressed that shortcoming in this encounter, notching 2-20, but will be equally frustrated at the concession of five goals which ultimately sank their challenge.

The visitors opened the scoring with an Andrew Kilcullen point followed soon afterwards by an excellent Eoin Comerford point from distance but the home side got their noses in front after five minute when they were awarded and converted a penalty to lead 1-1 to 0-2.  

Sligo dominated the next ten minutes and led 0-7 to 1-2 at the end of the first quarter with three frees from Kilcullen and a point each from Fionn Connolly and Conor Hanniffy.

London then hit a purple patch in a devasting six minute spell that altered the course of the game and from which Sligo never fully recovered. Ronan Crowley brought the sides level with two frees in quick succession and then David Barron got in for a goal followed by another point to which Crowley added a further free from distance to complete a seven point swing, 2-6 to 0-7.

Things went bad to worse for Sligo on 26 minutes with centre forward Eoin Comerford shown a straight red card. Crowley converted the resulting free with Niall Broderick adding another point straight from the puck-out to extend the lead to seven.

Sligo brought on Diarmuid Hanniffy in an attempt to reclaim some ground and he immediately set up Joe McHugh for Sligo's first score in almost 15 minutes but that was quickly overtaken by a Jack Goulding goal for London to leave the scores at 3-9 to 0-8 as normal time in the first half elapsed.

Sligo made good use of the two minutes added time with Conor Hanniffy making a great run through the middle to find the net, a score sandwiched between two further Kilcullen points to leave the half time score at 3-9 to 1-10 in favour of the hosts - a five point gap.

Sligo's hopes of reducing that margin were dealt an early blow in the opening two minutes of the second half when Jack Goulding and full forward Eoghan McHugh picked of a point and a goal respectively to extend London's lead to nine again 4-10 to 1-10.

Despite the margin and the numerical advantage, Sligo never gave up and with Tomas Cawley and Conor Hanniffy in particular continually running at the London defence they steadily clawed away at the lead.

Joe McHugh added two points from play and Kilcullen one from a free to bring the margin back to six before Crowley pulled one back from a free. This was the pattern for much of the second half where Sligo would get two to which London would respond with a free. Kilcullen and Cawley, and then Kilcullen and Conor Hanniffy moved Sligo on to 1-17 with Crowley keeping the board ticking over for the home side, putting them on to 4-14.

Sligo were now making all of the running but the margin was still at five with two further exchanges of points between Crowley and Goulding for London and Kilcullen and Joe McHugh for Sligo as three minutes added time was called.

Tomas Cawley finally got Sligo within a score with his side's second goal and when Diarmuid Hanniffy added a point, a late win was still possible as the home side flagged. London came with one last attack however and full forward McHugh, who had been one of the home side's most influential players on the day finished to the net with the last puck of the game to give his side a five point winning margin 5-16 to 2-20.

Sligo will rue the concession of some poor goals but will take encouragement from the improvement in front of goals and the energy right to the end as they prepare now for a relegation play off, most likely against the same opposition in three weeks time.

Sligo:  Jimmy Gordon; Niall Kilcullen, James Weir, Kevin O'Kennedy; Ronan Molloy, Rory McHugh, Gavin Connolly; Fionn Connolly (0-1), Darragh McHugh; Connor Hanniffy (1-2), Eoin Comerford (0-1), Tom├ís Cawley (1-1); Joe McHugh (0-4), Andrew Kilcullen (0-10, 10f), Eddie O'Donoghue. 
Subs: Diarmuid Hanniffy (0-1) for G Connolly (26m), Fionn Moylan for O'Donoghue (46m), Ruairi Brennand for O'Kennedy (inj, 61m), Donal Keaveney for Weir, (70m)