There were five GAA games across three provinces down for decision over the weekend and there was high drama and scores aplenty to be had countrywide.
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Sligo were rocked in the opening 15 minutes in their clash with Galway, as they trailed 0-5 to 0-1 before getting back to basics and shoring up their defence to stem the tide. Mark Hehir was in sublime form as he kicked points from both the dead ball and from open play for the Tribesmen but Sligo responded well with from Adrian Marren keeping the deficit at four at half time.
Sligo hit four points unanswered to draw level with Seamus McManus and Marren both grabbing a brace of points before Marren capped a fine display by slotting two goals, one from a penalty and one with only four minutes remaining to seal a Connacht final to win by five points.
Clare reached their first Munster football in 12 years by ending a 28 year losing streak against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds and winning their first Munster championship match since 2008.
The Banner had managed to accumulate a seemingly insurmountable nine point lead at half-time but Limerick nearly pulled off one of the all-time greatest comebacks after an inspired second half performance that just fell short.
Gary Brennan was in imperious form in the centre of the park as he and Ger Quinlan set up the platform for the Banner forwards to fire at will and convert scores with ease. Limerick were then terribly unfortunate to concede a goal Clare’s Gordon Kelly took a hefty deflection on its way past Brian Scanlon in the Limerick goal and, after further score, Clare led 1-9 to 0-3 at half-time.
Come the second half, came the Limerick comeback. Three goals in three minutes set the tone for the second half, with Ian Ryan the architect in chief, bagging four points for his side in short space of time. Two more from the Limerick ace, Ryan, levelled the game with six minutes to play and, after he and David Tubridy exchanged scores, it was the Clare full-forward that won it in added time seal a final berth for the Banner and condemn Maurice Horan’s men to the qualifiers.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Cork had an easier-than-expected 0-17 to 0-12 win over arch-rivals Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
For much of the contest, the Kingdom looked disjointed, lethargic and devoid of any real impetus, as Colm O’ Neill and Donncha O’ Connor scored 11 points between them.
Dan Goulding came off the bench to keep the scoreline ticking over for the Rebels but with Kerry not being able to land a serious blow, the result was never in doubt
Colm Cooper was the highlight of the Kerry team scoring five points, including an excellent sliced effort, but not even the “Gooch” could inspire his countymen as they now enter the qualifiers while Cork now face Clare in the Munster final.
Tyrone reached the last four of the Ulster championship after a thoroughly professional display against Armagh, who despite a spirited comeback, were not able to catch their Nothern neighbours.
No less than eight O’ Neill County players scored in the first half as they led by three at the interval with Aidan Forker hitting the net for the Orchard.
Kevin Dyas as sent off after two yellow cards in two minutes midway through the second half but it only strengthened the Armagh resolve with Brian Mallon levelling the game with four minutes remaining.
However, Tyrone saw out the game with Martin Penrose, registering eight points throughout the game and Stephen O’ Neill bagging a late individual effort saw them advance to the semi-finals.
Meath and Carlow must do it all again this Saturday after JJ Smith’s last gasp goal denied the Royals victory in Tullamore.
This was a hammer blow for Seamus McEnaney and his charges who, despite not playing very well and losing Conor Gillespie to a red card, thought they had done enough, with Brian Farrell in superb form, kicking four points and Cian Ward helping himself to a goal in the 22nd minute.
Carlow had Brian Murphy and Smith to thank as they kept their side in touch but when they lost both Paul Reid and Derek Hayden to straight red cards, “Banty” and his side must have breathed a sigh of relief. But the action was not over, as in injury time, David Gallagher spilled Keith Jackson low effort and Smith was on hand to get the equalising goal and force a replay at the same venue on Saturday.
Finally, Longford suffered their first defeat of the year as they lost out to Wexford by a point in their quarter-final replay at O’ Connor Park.
On two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, Longford led by four points, as they looked to close out the game but the Model County refused to lie down. With Paul Barden and Sean McCormack kicking points for fun, it looked only a matter of time, despite Redmond Barry’s goal for Wexford early on that Longford would get over the line.
Shane Roche’s five points kept them in touch before a late revival which saw Adrian Flynn and two scores from Ben Brosnan drew the Model level before Barry won the match with his third score of the game and will now face Dublin in two weeks for a Leinster semi-final in Croke Park.