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First Win In 18 Months Lifts Weight From Shoulders Of Sligo Footballers

First Win In 18 Months Lifts Weight From Shoulders Of Sligo Footballers

A weight was lifted from the shoulders of the Sligo footballers on Sunday evening when, for the first time in 18 months, they won a league or championship game.

London - the same team which Sligo had last beaten a year-and-a-half previous in the Connacht Championship - were on the end of a 13-point hammering at Ruislip.

"Last year, we got through a season without a competitive win," Sligo forward Pat Hughes, who scored 2-1 in the game, told Balls.ie's Three-Man Weave Podcast.

It does weigh on you. We have quite a young panel. It does definitely take a bit of a toll.

Our younger players balanced that really well last year. Week after week, we were coming up a bit short; we had some games where we were losing by a point here and a point there. They were looking forward to this year with a positive attitude - it says a lot about the group.

From that point of view, it might have even brought the group closer in some respects. It was something that we would have focused on, getting off to a good start.

Sunday's game had an added spice in that two brothers, David and Sean Carrabine, lined out against each other. Sean with Sligo and David with London. Hughes jokes had the siblings have not yet developed a bitter rivalry.

"Logistically, it's not ideal," Hughes said of playing a league game in London.

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"You're getting over there on Saturday and you're spending a few hours in a hotel. You're just trying to keep it as close to the routine that you'd have for an away game here.

"It does take a toll on lads. It's probably not too bad for me, I'm Dublin based so when we flew back last night (Sunday), I was back in bed within half-an-hour. The lads had to hop on a bus and head home to Sligo. There will be a lot of tired bodies this morning (Monday).

"There would be a couple of lads who would have booked today off just to get that extra bit of recovery in. You're back on the pitch training on Tuesday night. You have to get your gym work done and get the head right again for next weekend.

"Then there are the lads who can't do that, who don't have the luxury of being able to take that day or that morning off."

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Sligo's station in Division 4 this year means that unless they progress to the Connacht final - and it's likely that they will have to beat Galway to do so - they will play in the new second tier championship.

Hughes has gone back and forth down the years on whether or not the introduction of a tier two competition would be a good idea. From a personal point of view, he now believes it probably is. Though, he's not completely sold on its format.

"A lot of decisions that are made in the GAA, there's talk about it for so long and then there seems to be a snap decision made," he said.

"It doesn't even have a name yet; how much exposure it's going to get, when are the games going to be played, will games be televised - things like that add a little bit of exposure to the whole thing.

"If counties knew a little bit more, they might take it a bit more seriously. The last thing you want to do is have a repeat of the Tommy Murphy Cup.

"There's an onus on the GAA now in terms of sponsorship and exposure for it, to try and make it something that those second tier counties want to compete in and want to win. In some format, there's definitely a place there for a second tier competition.

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"In terms of supporters, if we're playing a Tier Two Championship game down in Portlaoise or in Limerick, it's not all that easy for supporters to get there. You would like to see a little bit of extra exposure for those tier two teams who don't get it and wouldn't have league games televised, who might have one championship game televised every couple of years.

"There is quite a bit of good football being played at that level. Particularly when you see teams playing against other teams at their own level in the summer time, you will get some decent quality games. It's no harm for the public to see that as well."

Hughes spent much of his 20s as a primary school teacher but in recent months moved to working full-time in his own company, Spot Recruitment, which he started with Mayo footballer Cillian O'Connor and former Connacht U20 rugby player David Butler.

"The transition was something that myself and the two lads have been working on for quite a while," said Hughes.

"Probably the guts of a year before I left teaching, we were working on it behind-the-scenes. From that point of view, when the time came to step into it full-time, it wasn't a major step.

"The big thing would be that the hours you work as a teacher are really conducive to training: You're out the door at three every day and you have your weekends and the summers to yourself for training and playing. When you're working for yourself, you could be working 100 hours a week if you really wanted to. It does take a little bit of time management.

"In terms of working with Cillian, it's grand. Myself and Cillian have been friends for a long number of years. We lived together when we were in college years ago. We've been friends for a long time.

"Any time we've played against each other, our encounters on the field have been few and far between. I don't think either of us have plans on going too far back [in defence]. We don't bump into each other too much on the pitch.

"Surprisingly enough, we don't talk about football too much when we're in work. When you're playing football, you're engrossed in it so much, it's nice to get a release from it."

Picture credit: Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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