Two men who brought All Ireland glory to Galway left Markievicz Park last night with contrasting feelings as former All-Star midfielder Kevin Walsh basked in his latest triumph with Sligo and John O'Mahony was left to rue the latest Mayo disaster.
Walsh has clearly learnted well from his master. The early threat of Alan Freeman at full-forward for Mayo was curtailed as Walsh sent Eamon O'Hara back into a sweeping role in defence. And yet, it was hard to see where Mayo had the extra man out the field as Sligo dominated in just about every position.
Now Walsh and Sligo will start preparing for a Connacht semi-final showdown against Galway and on this form Joe Kernan will have every reason to be nervous.
For O'Mahony and Mayo this was a nightmare. It looked as if they had blown their league final calamity out of their system as they raced into a 1-1 lead after just six minutes. All the danger came from Freeman on the edge of the square. He had Sligo full-back Noel McGuire in all sorts of trouble from the start.
Freeman laid out his stall early, pointing in less than 30 seconds as he fired over an excellent score from the left-wing. It was no surprise that more followed with Freeman fielding a long delivery from the hard-working Andy Moran before being hauled to the ground by McGuire. Freeman himself stepped forward and dispatched the ball into the top-left corner with a superb penalty.
It took Sligo ten minutes to register their first score, a free from Colm McGee, and a further six minutes elapsed before they got one from play, McGee again finding his range.
By half-time the margin was two points, with Mayo in trouble having played with the slight wind and leading by just 1-4 to 0-5.
The first score of the second-half was always going to be crucial and it was Sligo who got it with Mark Breheny pointing a free before McGee landed one from long range. The danger of Freeman was curtailed by O'Hara's defensive positioning but he was still a threat from placed balls and edged Mayo back in front after 45 minutes with a fine free from the left.
But Sligo were increasing in confidence and momentum and Mayo were shut out from there with Ross Donavan, Keelan Calwey and Davey superb.
Sligo hit three points without reply from the 48th to 50th minutes with David Kelly levelling before midfielder Tony Taylor kicked them into a lead they never lost with a tremendous point from 50 yards.
McGee then landed one from a free from the same distance and there was every danger Sligo would romp home.
It was left to Freeman to stem the flow with another free but Kelly, who kicked three second-half frees, extended the Sligo lead and Mayo native Alan Costello put four between them with six minutes remaining with his second point of the night.
Freeman kept Mayo's hopes of forcing extra-time alive with a 66th-minute point but Sligo fans were spared a nervous finish when Kelly deftly pointed from the tightest of angles on the right to make a thoroughly deserved victory secure and they can now start turning their attentions to a Galway side who will be concerned by the way Sligo improve in leaps and bounds in this one.
Mayo are back in all to familiar territory – heading home to chew over the bones of another bad day at the office and it will take all of O'Mahony's skills to get them to regroup for the qualifiers.
SLIGO P Greene; C Harrison, N McGuire, R Donavan; K Cawley, B Phillips, J Davey (0-1); T Taylor (0-1), S Gilmartin (0-1); A Costello (0-2), M Breheny (0-3, 3 frees), K Sweeney; C McGee (0-4, 3frees);, E O'Hara, D Kelly (0-3) Sub S Coen for McGee, 67 mins
MAYO D Clarke; D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Cunniffe, K McLoughlin; T Parsons, R McGarrity; A Moran (0-1), S O'Shea, T Mortimer; C Mortimer (0-3, 1f), A Freeman (1-4, 1-0 pen; 0-1f), E Varley Subs BJ Padden for S O'Shea, 46 mins; A O'Shea for Varley, 54 mins; M Ronaldson for T Mortimer, 61 mins; B Moran for Parsons, 63 mins; K Conroy for McGarrity, 66 mins
Referee J White (Donegal)