Under pressure Sligo boss Owen Heary cut a relieved figure at the final whistle as his Rovers side escaped from Eamonn Deacy Park with a priceless win that sees Galway United now sit at the foot of the Premier Division table after the first Connacht derby of the season.
Dinny Corcoran’s early penalty decided the outcome and Tommy Dunne’s men can take little consolation from a gallant performance that should really have yielded some reward. Having now lost six of their opening seven league games, Galway desperately need to start turning home performances into points on the board.
Not for the first time this season at home, a refereeing decision cost them dearly as Neil Doyle bizarrely pointed to the spot in the fifth minute, under no pressure from any of the Sligo players, when United ‘keeper Ger Hanley came to punch a high, bouncing ball in the area.
The former Irish underage ‘keeper, making his first league start of the sesaon, collided with Rovers’ captain Raf Cretaro while doing so, but quite from what viewpoint Doyle decided that a penalty was warranted is anyone’s guess. Sligo gleefully accepted the gift and Corcoran, with the aid of a slight bobble on an uneven surface, beat Hanley’s dive to his right.
The ideal start for the visitors then, who in truth were probably deserving of the lead for their early dominance and high intensity pressing that had Galway looking anything but comfortable. Cretaro drifted into space with ease, David Cawley and John Russell oozed class in the centre of the park, while league debutant Ryan McManus snuffed out the threat from Jake Keegan.
Corcoran almost immediately doubled the lead when latching onto Stephen Folan’s incisive through ball and lobbing Hanley, but centre half Stephen Walsh recovered well to hook off the line. The home side were gasping for air and Sligo appeared ready to kill off the contest, but after a wobbly opening quarter, United gathered themselves and began to frustrate the visitors.
Recent additions to the Bit o’Red coaching ticket, Liam O’Brien and Joseph N’do, who were both conspicuous presences in the warm-ups, would have no doubt approved of Rovers’ early endeavours, but their attacking potency diminished as Galway grew into the contest.
While there may have been little or no flair on show, Galway grafted their way back into the game by half time, as Enda Curran shot over, Paul Sinnott was denied by an excellent Folan tackle, and Walsh fired in a shot from distance that Richard Brush needed two attempts to gather.
A well-taken free just after half time almost provided the leveller but Gary Shanahan’s glancing header was diverted behind before Walsh then headed the corner wide. Heary was forced to utilise his bench as Steven Beattie succumbed to injury on 50 minutes, and his side were understandably anxious to protect their lead as the half wore on.
As the game entered the final quarter Sligo finally showed some attacking intent as Morten Nielsen and Sander Puri both went close to doubling their advantage. They were fortunate at the other end, though, as McManus’ attempted clearance from a Shanahan crosss looped over Brush but cleared the bar.
With thirteen minutes to play, the chance that the home fans were waiting for arrived when Shanahan picked out substitute Padraic Cunningham, but from close range the young striker could only head straight at the legs of Brush. This was a pivotal moment as a goal then could have propelled Dunne’s side to even greater heights.
As it was, Sligo hung on and without ever really testing Hanley in the second half, they picked up their first league win of the campaign and left Galway pondering how they had managed to dominate a poor game, one which featured a staggering 100 throw-ins, for large spells without coming away with anything once more.
Galway United: Ger Hanley; Alex Byrne, Kevin Garcia, Stephen Walsh, Colm Horgan; Gary Shanahan, Paul Sinnott, David O’Leary, Ryan Connolly; Jake Keegan (Padraic Cunningham, 70), Enda Curran.
Subs not used: Conor Winn (gk), Aaron McDonagh, Cormac Raftery, Conor Barry, Antaine O’Laoi.
Booked: Curran (60).
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Gary Boylan, Stephen Folan, Ryan McManus, Gavin Dykes; Steven Beattie (Sander Puri, 50), John Russell, David Cawley, Kevin Devaney; Dinny Corcoran (Morten Nielsen, 65), Raf Cretaro (Eoin Wearen 83).
Subs not used: Ryan Coulter (gk), Gary Armstrong, Alan Keane.
Booked: Folan (49), Russell (55), Nielsen (88).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ryan McManus (Sligo Rovers).