Bohemians 1 Sligo Rovers 0
Far removed from dream-like states of the Toumba and Aviva stadiums, Bohemians gathered in calmer, more familiar surrounds. After a Keith Buckley goal settled matters, every player slowly walked off the Dalymount grass. These last few weeks have been real and unforgettable, so they wanted to appreciate the people who follow them religiously.
Considering the draining disappointment of Greece last Thursday, Bohs could have done without spinning into a vital domestic encounter. Sligo Rovers began seven points clear and sitting third in the Airtricity League - the essential slot to repeat those thrilling Europa nights next summer - and this prompted Keith Long to name every able body from the 2-0 defeat to PAOK.
“There was fatigue in the legs but there was no fatigue in the mind,” said Long.
Only Ali Coote and Robert Cornwall were missing from the starting XI. No sign of Philly McMahon either, the club's performance coach having featured prominently in his usual villain's role during Saturday's All-Ireland football semi-final at Croke Park.
Anyway, heavy legs showed in the early skirmishes as Walter Figuiera's pace caused hassle down the right but Bohs rallied to finish the opening stanza with Dawson Devoy and Keith Burt going close with spectacular efforts. Ross Tierney even had a legitimate penalty shout rejected when nudged to ground by Sligo captain Garry Buckley.
The difference in quality took a while to reveal itself but when Keith Buckley was afforded enough scope to fire a low shot after 64 minutes it was Sligo who looked like they started the weekend with a round trip to Thessaloniki.
Buckley was excellent throughout, snuffing out Sligo attacks at source and looking nothing like the semi-professional he proclaims to be.
“Great goal on his weaker left foot,” said Long. “He is captain of the club and his performance leads by example. His overall displays have been really consistent and of a really high level. I am delighted for him.”
Georgie Kelly had two chances to bag his 17th goal of the season but Ed McGinty matched both attempts. Not that anyone can point fingers at the lone Donegal striker's second 90 minute shift in three days.
"That's gone now, Europe, we are out of it," Long added. "We have to move on and I am glad we were able to put in that performance.
“We enjoyed the experience and the journey that we were on and we are glad we were able to perform to the level that we did but we are disappointed that we left it a little bit behind on Thursday, by conceding two bad goals and probably didn’t have the conviction to go win the game or take the game to the opposition.
"We had a couple of great chances - Keith Buckley's effort in the first half was really close - and two in the second half; Keith Ward probably feels he should have scored and taken the game into extra time."
Gone but still raw.
Mercifully, Bohs now enter a 14 day break. They have Shamrock Rovers to thank as their rivals progress in the Europa Conference League qualifiers means that this Friday's Dublin derby will need to be rescheduled. Next day out is Shamrock Rovers back at Dalymount in the small matter of the FAI Cup second round.
Bohemians: Talbot; Lyons, Feely, Finnerty, Breslin; Levingston (Mallon 77), K Buckley; Burt (Cornwall 90), Tierney, Devoy; Kelly.
Sligo Rovers: McGinty; Banks, G Buckley (capt), Mahon, Donelon (Kenny 72); Morahan (Horgan 72), Gibson McDonnell; Figuiera, De Vries (Cawley 72); Parkes.
Referee: Paul McLaughlinn (Donegal).