Damien Sweeney stars for County U-16\'s
Sligo 2-14 to Westmeath 1-14 (extra time)
In the dying minute of extra time with failing light the issue was far from settled as Westmeath were attacking the Sligo goal in a last gasp effort to secure an equalising goal.
Sligo had let the Leinster County back into the game on a number of occasions despite their own superiority, indeed this was the reason for extra time, missed chances and opponents who made use of any break they got in the game. Damien Sweeney, the Manning Cup Goal keeper from the Cloonacool Club ensured that a result would be achieved on the night by pulling off two remarkable saves 30 seconds apart to deny Westmeath their equaliser and ensure that the Yeats men were victorious by a three point margin.
Extra time was a tale of two goalkeepers as some of Westmeath?s Michael McMahon?s kick outs were well below his own high standards with one falling into grateful Sligo hands, that resulted in a valuable point, and another going out for a sideline kick.
Although Ciar?n O?Connor?s free attempt went wide of the post in the first minute of play in normal time Sligo appeared to dominate proceedings as the game progressed. The ball was turned over on the Leinster side no fewer than four times in the first five minutes and ?man of the match? Crist?ir Davey was to raise the green flag with a well taken goal, just reward for all the pressure that was exerted. P?draig Leonard added two nice points from play but at seven minutes the Leinster side came out of their slumber and a good attack resulted in the ball hitting the side netting. Their first point did come at nine minutes from a long distance Ger Leech free. Sligo had by now recorded three wides and as Westmeath found the target more often the question was would the Connacht side live to regret their off target shots? Leech converted another free at ten minutes and Lorcan Dolan got in for a goal at twelve minutes having received an Alan Gaffney pass. This was followed immediately by a well taken Robbie Greville point from play. Sligo were eight minutes without a score when Ciaran O?Connor fired over from a free. Westmeath responded with two converted frees, from the boots of David Brooks and Ger Leech. Leech?s effort was from 45m at seventeen minutes.
Ciaran O?Connor?s next free attempt was off target and a pass by Conor Keirns, who had just been introduced to the action, was too strong and went harmlessly wide. A poor Westmeath kick-out went out for a sideline ball but nothing came of the subsequent attack. Robbie Greville recorded another nice point having got the pass from Lorcan Dolan. Sligo?s John McDonagh was not as accurate with his free attempt. When Sligo once again won the kick out P?rdraig Leonard did not waste possession but scored a nice point from play. A great Lorcan Dolan point from play was followed by a converted Ciaran O?Connor free and Sligo went in at the break three points adrift on a score of 1-08 to 1-05.
Both sides took a while to settle in the second half with Westmeath having the ball turned over on them on a few occasions and Sligo guilty of two miss passes a minute apart. Ciaran O?Connor converted a free on five minutes and Dillon McDermott, the Westmeath full forward responded with a well taken point from play. A Sligo free kick fell into the hands of the opposition and it was Killian Daly who finished off the movement with a well taken point at eight minutes into the half. Just a minute later the Leinster side failed to clear the ball and Cirist?ir Davey pounced on the opportunity to score his second goal, a crucial score.
Adam Gaffney scored a point from play and Ciaran O?Connor converted one of two free chances that presented themselves which was followed by an Aaron Curley point from all of 45m. Another Sligo free attempt was off target and Crist?ir Davey?s third attack on the Iar Mh? goal was brilliantly saved by Michael McMahon. Crist?ir set up another point opportunity but that also went astray. At twenty five minutes into the second half and the Yeat?s men were trailing by two points despite being dominant for long periods of the game. Ciaran O?Connor came to the rescue when he converted two frees to level matters, Damian Sweeney kept it that way with a great save as the clock filled up but calls for a Sligo penalty went unheeded when the last attack of the game was smothered; by some accounts illegally.
With the Autumn light disappearing as dusk was holding out for the night referee Damien Maher made the call to play extra time. Ben McGarry?s attempt was wide of target and it was Dillon McDermott who raised the white flag for An Iar Mh? with a well taken point from play. Ciaran O?Connor and P?draig Leonard put over two nice points from play with O?Connor converting a free at five minutes. A couple of other chances for the Yeats men did not work out but they were a side playing with purpose and every attack was using up valuable time. Yet another Sligo attack dropped short but Ciaran O?Connor made no mistake with his effort from play and the sides went in at the break at 0-4 to 0-1.
P?draig Leonard scored almost as soon as play resumed. Spectators were now squinting to see the action in the failing light but the Yeats men were getting fresher the longer the game went on. Ger Leech got one back for Westmeath and another Sligo attack fell short. At seven minutes into the ten minute half Westmeath were penalised for taking a sideline kick from outside the line although to be fair it seemed to be perfectly legal. The throw ball gave the advantage to Sligo bringing the action away from their half although the subsequent effort was another wide ball. Crist?ir Davey caught the kick out which was no surprise as he seemed to be playing in every position. Visibility was very poor, there were two minutes left and the Yeats men were three points ahead. Westmeath?s 45 was off target and a minute later then they were awarded a free. The darkness was falling and the Sligo goal mouth was full of black shirts. It was then that Damien Sweeney came into his own with the two great saves. We knew he had saved, more by sound than by sight, at this stage!
There would be no need for a replay as the Manning Cup was to cross the Shannon that night shining brightly in the darkness as Captain Ben McGarry held it aloft.