The goal itself came from a well-worked move in the 17th minute. Alan Murphy spread the ball wide to Derek O’Brien who whipped in a cross that found its way to captain John Russell. He skipped past the challenge of Ventre, and then gave Brush no chance with a powerful eight yard effort that went into the roof of the Sligo net. However, for both creator and scorer, this was to be the key moments of both of their games. O’Brien was subbed after 24 minutes with what looked like an ankle injury; Russell’s game was to be ended by referee Derek Tomney early on in the second half.
Otherwise, the first half was a relatively even affair. Both sides could have netted in the opening five minutes. Sligo had a chance in the opening thirty seconds when marksman Rafael Cretaro was sent through on goal by Blinkhorn. He found himself one-on-one with Ryan but the goalkeeper was up to the challenge and the momentary crisis was averted. Just a few minutes later Alan Murphy cut in from the right-hand side for Galway. His shot was blocked, but the rebound fell into the path of Iarfhliath Davoren. Richard Brush needed every inch of his 6’1” frame to push the well-aimed strike past the post. The best of the other chances fell the way of Sligo who could have scored through both Doyle, who fell just short of connecting with a ball across the goal from Blinkhorn, and Morrison, who shot wide from ten yards.
The key moment of the second-half came just three minutes in. Michael McGrath, only weeks after he left Galway for Sligo, was running through the midfield when he was tackled from behind by Russell. While Russell’s first yellow-card, for a foul on Matthew Blinkhorn, was debatable, there could be few complaints about this one and Russell was rightly given his marching orders.
Sligo attacked thereafter, but found it tough to break down Galway’s stern defence. Barry Ryan made a brilliant save from McGrath’s 30-yard free kick, while he was also equal to another effort from Conor O’Grady. Sligo’s best chance of the half came eight minutes from time but Joe Kendrick’s free-kick from 20 yards went inches over the crossbar.
The smaller-than-usual Terryland crowd roared on their heroes, who came close to adding a second late on. Good work from substitutes McBrien and Vinny Faherty – who was very impressive after he came off the bench to play up-front on his own – set up Sean Kelly whose 25-yard-effort could have been the perfect way to celebrate his permanent move to Galway. However, it clipped Brush’s crossbar on its way over.
Though Sligo dominated possession and territory in the second half, Galway deserved their win. The three points move them further away from the relegation predicted by many at the start of the season. For Paul Cook’s side, the battle continues.
Galway United: Ryan; Conneely, Breen, Guthrie, O'Toole; Kelly, Russell (c), O'Brien (Cooke, 24, McBrien, 71), Davoren; Murphy, Malloy (Faherty, 63).
Subs not used: Hanley, Fitzgerald
Sligo Rovers: Brush, Boco, Keane, Ventre, Kendrick; Morrison (Marshall, 66), O'Grady, McGrath, Doyle (Turner, 74), Cretaro, Blinkhorn.
Subs not used: Camano, Kelly, Schlingerman
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Barry Ryan. Though United’s defence was strong, Ryan was never found wanting when called into action. His first-minute save from Cretaro was crucial.