Eirgrid GAA Football All-Ireland U20 Championship semi-final.
In beautiful sunny conditions in Pearse Stadium, Salthill this evening, Sligo U20s made history by reaching the All-Ireland final for the first time in the county’s history with victory over Kerry.
Sligo progressed to the semi-final after retaining the Provincial trophy with victory over Galway in Tuam, while Kerry were comfortable winners in the Munster final with Cork.
Paul Henry’s Sligo were without Dillon Walsh through illness and Matt Henry through injury, with James Donlon returning from injury and St Mary’s Ronan Niland coming in to replace Henry.
Tomás O’Sé’s Kerry, playing with the aid of the strong breeze in the opening half, hit the opening two scores with Rob Monahan both from play in the 3rd and 5th minutes.
Sligo got the game’s first ‘45 on 7 minutes after good work from Ross Chambers and Ross Doherty, Dylan Walsh’s shot against the strong breeze going to the right and wide.
Sligo were dealt a huge blow on 10 minutes when Sligo captain and Connacht player of the year Canice Mulligan had to withdraw through an arm injury after overturning possession, Joshua Flynn coming in to replace him.
The Yeats men responded with Rossa Sloyan and James Donlon linking up with Ronan Niland who sent over a fabulous point.
Down the other end, Kerry’s Luke Crowley hit his side’s third point.
Then moments later St Mary’s Niland was involved in scoring a sensational goal for Sligo, a one-two with Daire O’Boyle seeing Niland with a brilliant strike hitting the net, Sligo into the lead on 12 minutes. Ross Chambers and Dylan McLoughlin were working hard for Sligo in defence.
Kerry’s Armiin Heinrich was making a dangerous run midway through the half, but referee Kieran Eanetta signalled overcarrying and a free out for Sligo. It was end to end stuff from both.
William Shine won and pointed a free as the sides were level on 21 minutes. Luke Marren got his first from a placed ball after Flynn was fouled, Sligo back in front on 26 minutes with loud cheers from the large Sligo support.
Kerry responded with Keith Evans from play on 29 minutes before Sligo’s Marren added his second from a foul on the lively Daire O’Boyle on 32 minutes, the Sligo supporters cheering.
Just before the interval Evans won a free and Shine his second free, the sides level at the break, Sligo 1-3 to Kerry’s 0-6 as it was all to play for.
Sligo started the second half brightly with Dylan Walsh seeking out Donlon who pointed a mark on 32 minutes to give Sligo the slender lead with Kerry responding through Cian McMahon a minute later as the sides were level once more.
The Munster side hit three early second half wides against the breeze as very little separated both teams in this entertaining game of football. Marren saw a chance go narrowly wide of the posts and moments later Shine put his side in front with his first from play.
A long ball in from Niland unluckily just dropped into the keeper’s hands, Luke Crowley hitting Kerry’s fourth wide of the half compared to Sligo’s two.
Shine had a shot drop into the arms of Ethan Carden in the Sligo goals as Mark McDaniel set up Marren but the shot just dropped short.
A chance from substitute Aaron O’Shea was punched out of the dangerzone as down the other end, Donlon sent a brilliant ball into McDaniel as Sligo were awarded a ‘45. Ross Doherty was outstanding for Sligo covering immense ground
A brilliant strike from Walsh was met with huge cheers from the Sligo support, the sides level again midway through the half. Sligo introduced Brian Byrne and Robert O’Kelly-Lynch. Just after being introduced O’Kelly-Lynch passed to Niland who was fouled and Marren pointed on 51 minutes, then Sligo went two in front on 53 minutes, Byrne sending over a sensational score after a brilliant pass from O’Boyle.
Kerry hit their sixth wide of the half and Cillian Burke was fouled with five minutes to go, Shine pointing as a point separated them.
Sligo advanced again, cheered on by the massive Sligo support, and again O’Kelly-Lynch was involved, setting up O’Boyle for a fantastic point from play on 57 minutes, Sligo leading by 1-8 to 0-9 as the atmosphere was electric.
A chance from Kerry’s Monahan looked to be sailing over but the ball hit the post and came back into the welcome arms of Luke Casserly as Sligo breathed a sigh of relief, the game stopped for an injury further out the field.
Flynn had to leave the field through injury and Cian O’Donoghue was shown a straight red for the challenge on the Tubbercurry man on 61 minutes.
O’Shea won a free in for Kerry which went substantially wide as four minutes additional time was signalled.
Kerry kept pressing but Sligo were the deserved winners, sensational scenes in Salthill as they reach the All-Ireland final for the first time in the county’s history.
Source : Independent