Oscar Traynor Trophy
Sligo / Leitrim League 1 Donegal Junior League 0
The Donegal Junior League’s Oscar Traynor ambitions came to a halt in Ray Mc Sharry Park, Sligo on Sunday afternoon. The Yeats County town is still cheerfully decorated in the red and white colours of Sligo Rovers after their recent FAI Cup victory.
Those colours assumed a dual purpose on Sunday evening as the Sligo / Leitrim League, who play in similar attire, progressed to the next round of this season’s competition at the expense of their north-west rivals.
Sligo / Leitrim started brightly as Donegal took time to find their rhythm. After only two minutes Mark Mc Conigley had to be alert when a fiercely struck corner kick fizzed across his six yard line. But the custodian, who would go on to produce countless fine saves, dealt well with the threat and fisted the ball confidently away to safety,
On five minutes Ryan Carlin won a free kick for Donegal wide on the right. Team captain Michael Doherty floated the ball across the area. Ryan Shields rose well at the back post but Martin Ward in the home net managed to get a touch to divert the ball away from the Kilmacrennan man’s head.
McConigley again thwarted the hosts when he got down well to save a Keith Nibbs shot from the edge of the box. Sligo / Leitrim looked dangerous going forward but they failed to find the final ball and most of their attacks broke down outside the Donegal penalty area.
For their part Donegal were playing well. Ryan Carlin and Oisin McMenamin looked to have the wherewithal to unlock the home rearguard. McMenamin made Ward earn his corn when he fired a thunderous shot toward the Sligo / Leitrim net but the home keeper proved well up to the task.
With thirty eight minutes gone Donegal forced two corners in quick succession. Kevin McBrearty delivered the first which Ward fisted away for another a on the opposite side. Ryan McFadden took the second corner and played it short to Michael Doherty. The team captain tried his luck from outside the box but his left footed effort went over the bar.
As half time loomed Donegal were giving as good as they were getting. Carlin and McMenamin were both dangerous going forward. Kevin Mc Brearty, deployed on the left side of midfield, offered cover for left-back Brian Coll who had been so exposed in the match against Inishowen. The pair were very effective and allowed no Sligo / Leitrim advancement along their flank. McConigley in goals and Ryan McFadden as well as the central defensive pair of Shields and Mc Gee also showed well throughout the opening period.
Sligo /Leitrim came out for the second half with all guns blazing. This seemed to unsettle the Donegal side. Three times within the opening five minutes Mc Conigley had to produce top drawer saves to keep his side in the game. The pressure final told in the thirteenth minute when Sligo / Leitrim centre half Damien Shannon pounced on a loose ball in the Donegal box and he drove the ball to the net with venom.
Then came the match’s finest moment. Sligo / Leitrim playmaker, Christopher Kelly, swung a free kick into the Donegal box from wide on the left wing. Centre forward Gareth Reilly rose highest and with the deftest of flicks seemed to have doubled the home side’s advantage. Unbelievable McConigley, who was moving in the opposite direction, stuck out his left leg to stop the ball at the expense of only a corner. No-one could believe he had prevented the goal at absolute point blank range.
The remainder of the game saw little between the sides. Sligo / Leitrim continued to create the better chances. This was a direct result of their better pass completion rate. Donegal had plenty of possession but all too often their manoeuvres faltered before they could present and real danger to the hosts.
Mark Griffin replaced Kevin McBrearty and Dylan Ramsey came on for Ryan Carlin but the Cappry pair couldn’t impose themselves enough to have any bearing on the outcome.
It finished at one nil to Sligo / Leitrim and Donegal will now have to start thinking about how they will approach next year’s competition as they again will attempt to progress from the Group stages on this prestigious competition.
Sligo / Leitrim: Martin Ward, Neill Mc Kenna, Aaron Murran, Gary Rooney, Damien Shannon, Colm Jinks, Liam Mc Tiernan, Ross Mc Loughlin, Gareth Reilly, Christopher Kelly, Kith Nibbs. Subs; Graham Lee, Jake Mc Crann, Niall Brennan, Kevin Buckley, Gary Finan, Damien Scanlon, James Carty.
Donegal: Mark Mc Conigley, Jamie Boyle, Brian Coll, Ryan Shields, David Mc Gee, Ryan Mc Fadden, Jonny Robb, Michael Doherty, Oisin Mc Menamin, Ryan Carlin, Kevin Mc Brearty. Subs; Dylan Ramsey, Mark Griffin, Warren Mc Ginley.