This year’s GAA Football Connacht Senior Championship commences early next month with Sligo travelling across the Atlantic to take on New York in the opening round.Kevin Walsh and his backroom team will look back on their team’s Allianz Football League campaign, which saw them survive in Division Three for next season after four wins and three losses.
There is no doubt he will have learned many things. Most fans are asking if he has the players in the panel to make inroads at provincial level this summer.
Looking back at the Division Three games, Sligo were very unlucky not to have taken a point in their opening game against Antrim. With time up on the clock a Sligo defender was adjudged to have ‘thrown’ the ball, which resulted in the winning score coming from that awarded free.
Sligo then took on Wexford and produced a great performance to run out easy winners. Wexford went on from that game to win promotion, while Sligo went into mini-decline with a woeful performance away to Cavan.
Against Wexford a blind man could see that if the ball was played quickly into the forwards and, in particular, to Adrian Marren scores would be got.
When Longford came to town Sligo played a terrible game tactically. The ball was played over and back, which made it very easy on Longford to defend. Sligo owned the ball for the first 15 minutes of the second-half but refused to kick the ball quickly into the forwards, something that cost them the game.
Sligo recorded their second victory over a very poor Tipperary team, which led to the resignation of their manager John Evans.
Despite this win, Sligo were suddenly under pressure as relegation was staring them in the face. Credit must be given to the team and management as they showed great character to go to Tullamore and beat Offaly, a result that guaranteed them Division Three status for next year.
Another win against Roscommon, whom they could meet in the Connacht Senior Championship semi-final, is bound to have given the team a confidence boost.
Sligo ended up with eight points, but it could - and should – have been more. What will cause the management team most worries as they look back is the fact that the team did not play consistently well from one game to the next.
Another problem that management have to face is do they know their team that they will play against New York. The spine of the team is vital and especially mid-field.
The return of Eamonn O’Hara will give a massive boost to the team. O’Hara has still a lot to offer, despite his age, as he has always kept himself in tip-top shape. The attack should contain David Kelly, Stephen Coen and Adrian Marren, who will cause problems for any defence.
To be honest, I have a worry or two about Sligo’s defence. It is of huge importance that the management team now know their six best defenders and the positions they will fill. If the mistakes that were made during the Allianz Football League are not rectified then Sligo’s run in the Connacht Senior Championship might be short.