Our Connacht Championship opener is on this coming Saturday. Our opponents in this knockout provincial quarter-final draw are Sligo and the game takes place at their patch in Markievicz Park. The match throws in at 4.30pm on Saturday, Down’s Paul Faloon is the ref and it’s live on Sky Sports.
We’ve played Sligo a total of 56 times in the Championship, meeting them first back in 1906 and most recently in 2017. We’ve won 43 of those games, drawn five of them and lost eight. Our aggregate score stands at 102-520 to 48-367 in our favour.
On the Magpies’ home turf – not always Markievicz Park, by the way, we’ve played away Championship games against them in Ballymote and Tubbercurry too – we’ve won 16, drawn four and lost three of the 23 Connacht ties we’ve contested.
While we’ve won our three most recent Championship meetings against them – in 2017, 2015 and 2012 – they’ve a decent record against us at Markievicz Park since the turn of the Millennium. We last played them there in 2010 and you don’t need reminding what happened to us then. We beat them there by three points in 2003 but they beat us at the venue by the same margin in 2000.
That’s the history of matches between us. Of more relevance, though is what Sligo have been up to in more recent times. In summary, they haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire.
Winding back to before Covid struck, they began 2020 in Division Four, having fallen to the basement division at the conclusion of the previous year’s League campaign when they lost all seven Division Three matches.
Early last year after wins over London and Wicklow, they then lost to Wicklow and to Waterford. Just before the shutters came down due to the coronavirus they had a point to spare away to Wexford.
When the action resumed in October they lost their remaining two matches, away to Carlow and at home against Limerick. They finished up sixth in the table, well off the promotion positions.
However disappointing it may have been to miss out on promotion, worse was to follow for the Years County. A Covid outbreak in their ranks meant that, with very little ceremony, they were forced to pull out of the Championship, as Galway were given a bye into the provincial final.
It was rough justice on Sligo and you’d have to wonder if one the leading counties – ourselves included – would have been treated in similar fashion if they’d found themselves in the same predicament.
Fast forward to May this year and Sligo – with former Mayo selector Tony McEntee now in charge with them – were bracketed into Division Four North for the foreshortened League campaign.
They began positively, beating Connacht neighbours Leitrim by 2-19 to 0-18 in Markievicz Park and then losing by just a whisker to Antrim in a 3-13 to 3-12 shootout up in Corrigan Park. They were well beaten by Mickey Harte’s Louth in the third round, however, losing by 3-18 to 1-14 in a topsy-turvy match at Haggardstown.
I watched that game on GAA GO a few days after it was played – as prep for a chat on the podcast – and it was hard to know what to make of Sligo. Well in charge at half-time, they completely imploded after the break and were utterly unable to shackle Louth’s Sam Mulroy, their backline buckling completely every time the Wee County ran at them.
Loads of ball in that game went through the hands of Sligo captain Keelan Cawley at the back. He went off injured in the Division Four shield final against Wexford the weekend before last – a game the Magpies lost badly – and they’ll be significantly weakened if they have to face us without him. We’re not the only ones lamenting injury problems affecting key players at the minute.
By any measure, there’s a fair old gulf separating the two counties and we’re obviously very strong favourites to advance on Saturday. On home soil, Sligo will obviously give it everything but it would still be a shock of seismic proportions if we were to come away from the environs of Ben Bulben with anything other than a win.
Let’s, though, see what the mood on our side of the fence is about the contest. This one has to be played to a finish on the day so there’s no sitting on the fence option for it. Right, then, let’s be having you – will we win on Saturday?
Will we beat Sligo?
- Yes (88%, 558 Votes)
- No (12%, 74 Votes)
Total Voters: 632