Sligo Rovers Football Club / Cumann Peile Ruagairí Shligigh
- City: Sligo, County Sligo / Sligeach, Contae Shligigh
- Founded: 1928
- Ground: The Showgrounds (5,500)
- Nicknames: The Bit O’Red; Rovers
- Colours: Red shirts with white vertical stripes down one half, white shorts, red socks.
- 2023 League: League of Ireland Premier Division
- Club Website: https://www.sligorovers.com/
- Club Twitter: @sligorovers
- Best League Finish: 1st in the League of Ireland Premier Division (3 times)
- Best FAI Cup Finish: Winners (5 times)
- League of Ireland / Premier Division
- Champions (3): 1936–37, 1976–77, 2012
- FAI Cup
- Winners (5): 1982–83, 1993–94, 2010, 2011, 2013
- League of Ireland Cup
- Winners (2): 1997–98, 2010
- Setanta Sports Cup
- Winners (1): 2014
- League of Ireland First Division
- Champions (2): 1993–94, 2005
- League of Ireland First Division Shield
- Winners (1): 1993–94
- Connacht Senior League
- Champions (3): 1981–82, 1991–92, 1993–94
- Connacht Senior Cup
- Winners (1): 1981–82
- Connacht Senior League Challenge Cup
- Winners (2): 1990–91, 1993–94
- FAI Intermediate Cup
- Winners (1): 1933–34
- FAI Junior Cup
- Winners (1): 1928–29
Sligo Rovers Football Club / Cumann Peile Ruagairí Shligigh is a supporter-owned Irish football team currently playing in the League of Ireland Premier Division, the top tier in the Irish football pyramid, and has been crowned as Irish champions on three separate occasions. The club comes from the port town of Sligo / Sligeach, situated in the county of the same name, on Ireland’s northwestern coast and has a population of just under 20,000. Sligo Rovers currently play their home games at the 5,500-capacity, 4,000-seater The Showgrounds stadium located on the southwestern outskirts of the town on the southern side of the River Garvoge, and it has been the club’s home since its foundation in 1928. However, there are plans in place to redevelop the stadium to a 6,000-all-seater, UEFA Category 3-rated ground, which could also see the club potentially share the ground with Connacht Rugby in the future.
The club was formed in 1928 from the amalgamation of two junior sides, Sligo Town and Sligo Blues, and they were elected into the League of Ireland in 1934 after a successful period as a junior club, with the highlight being a 1929 Junior Cup victory. Their initial early success as a junior club would continue into senior football when after just three years competing in the league, Sligo Rovers achieved their first championship when they won the 1936-37 Irish title, becoming the first Connacht-based side to achieve the feat. During this period, Sligo would also appear in their first two FAI Cup finals, although in losing efforts on both occasions (the first couple of five consecutive national cup final losses) when they lost 0-1 to Shelbourne in the 1939 final (after a replay) and 0-3 to Shamrock Rovers in the following year’s final. The former event would be famous for having the legendary Dixie Dean score for Sligo in the first match (which was a 1-1 draw) in a brief period that saw the former Everton hero play for the club.
Throughout the next few decades of the post-war era, Sligo Rovers continued to compete within the League of Ireland without winning any silverware or achieving much success, with continuous financial issues hindering any advancements. The biggest highlight during that period was reaching the final of the 1969 FAI Cup, but they once again stumbled at the final hurdle by losing 1-2 in a second replay to Bohemian FC. It wouldn’t be until the 1976-77 season that the club finally achieved some long-due success when they pipped Bohs by a single point to clinch the title and win just their second league championship. Sligo would appear in another couple of FAI Cup final defeats in both 1978 and 1981, before finally breaking the hoodoo in the 1983 final when they defeated Bohemians 2-1 to clinch their first national cup – fifty years after first entering the competition.
Another FAI Cup victory was achieved in 1994 when Sligo defeated Derry City by a single goal, although throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the club fluctuated between the two divisions of the League of Ireland, and also suffered a shock 1-2 defeat to LoI Division One club Sporting Fingal in the 2009 FAI Cup final. However, that final ‘cupset’ would start a successful period for The Bit O’ Red when they rectified the wrongs of the previous year by winning the 2010 FAI Cup by beating Shamrock Rovers on penalties following a goalless game, and then successfully defended their trophy the following season by defeating Shelbourne again via a penalty shootout to secure their fourth cup victory. A fifth cup was added in 2013 when they beat Drogheda United 3-2 at the Aviva Stadium following an injury-time winner. However, between the fourth and fifth FAI Cup victories, Sligo Rovers achieved a third league championship. Under the leadership of Ian Baraclough (recently fired by Northern Ireland), the club lifted the 2012 LoI Premier Division title with two games to spare after defeating St. Patrick’s Athletic 3-2 at the Showgrounds in October to give Sligo their first championship in 35 years.
In recent seasons, the club had flirted with relegation but has since bounced back to become one of the stronger teams within the LoI Premier Division. This season, they performed incredibly well in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa Conference League by defeating Welsh club Bala Town on penalties and comfortably defeating Scottish Premier League club Motherwell 3-0 on aggregate to progress to the third qualifying round of the competition. Alas, despite defeating the Norwegian side Viking 1-0 in the second leg of the tie, they exited the ECL 2-5 on aggregate. Sadly, they will not be able to repeat the feat in next season’s competition after finishing in fifth position in the 2022 League of Ireland Premier Division table and missing out on qualification for the 2023-24 European competitions.
To talk about a side that finished in fifth position in this year’s League of Ireland Premier Divison and had their most successful European adventure in this season’s UEFA Europa Conference League, we spoke to the excellent Bit O’Red Supporters Trust (BORST). Formed in 2005, the Bit O’ Red Supporters Trust was the first fully registered trust of its kind in Ireland, and has become a voice for Sligo supporters by sharing open communication with the club, and since its inception, it has fundraised a significant five-figure sum to Sligo Rovers. To find out more about BORST, you can find their website, social media channels, and links to their podcast at the links below:
- BORST’s Website: https://borst.ie/
- BORST’s Twitter: @BitORedTrust
- Podcast Links: https://linktr.ee/Borst
Q. Who would you say is Sligo Rovers’ best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The best past player has to be Joseph N’Do. A fantastic central midfielder, who dictated the pace of the game. He was the catalyst that brought a lot of silverware to the club.
[N’Do is a former Cameroonian international who earned 21 caps for the Indomitable Lions between 1998 and 2002 and played in the 1998 World Cup. He joined Sligo Rovers in 2010 from Bohemians and played 109 games for the club in four years, winning the league in 2012, and three FAI Cup finals during his stay. He also was a co-caretaker manager for Sligo Rovers during the summer of 2015]
The best manager Sligo has had is Paul Cook.
[Liverpool-born Paul Cook managed Sligo Rovers between April 2007 and February 2012 winning the FAI Cup in 2010 and 2011 and the League of Ireland Cup in 2010 during his tenure before moving to manage Accrington Stanley. He is currently the manager of National League side Chesterfield.]
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ for the club in both the past and present squads?
Some of the past cult heroes are Tony Fagan [the record appearance holder having made 590 appearances for Sligo Rovers between 1967 and 1987], Harry McLoughlin [winger who played for Sligo between 1977 and 1989 and made 315 appearances for the club], Tony Stenson [second in the all-time appearance list for Sligo playing in 387 games between 1968 and 1984], and Chris Rutherford [English centre back who played for Sligo between 1975 and 1985, making 281 appearances for the club].
The current cult hero is Richard Brush [38-year-old English goalkeeper who joined the club in 2021]. He has signed four times for the club! A great keeper and a great character in the squad.
Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the club and why?
The best player in the squad is [23-year-old forward] Aidan Keena. He scored 21 goals last season and is the best player in the league [being named in the 2022 PFAI Team of the Year].
Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?
An up-and-coming player is midfielder Kailin Barlow. A superb local young player, with great vision. Fans love his brilliant attitude, and he is destined for big things.
Q. Who would you regard as Sligo’s biggest or historical rivals?
Our historical rivals are Shamrock Rovers. They are a big Dublin club, heavily favoured by the FAI, the government, the media, etc. We don’t like them!
Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this past season has gone?
We have just ended our season and finished 5th in the league, which is a disappointment. We started off slow and gave ourselves a mountain to climb for European qualification, just missing out. What makes it more disappointing is that we performed particularly well in Europe during the campaign [reaching the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League after being Bala Town and Motherwell in previous rounds, before losing to Norwegian club Viking 2-5 on aggregate].
The current state of the club is good. We are one of only a few fan-owned clubs left in Ireland, with most of the other clubs in the league owned by investors, e.g. Dermot Desmond owns Shams (Shamrock Rovers), so it’s very difficult to compete. However, we punch way above our weight and are usually in and around the top end of the table.
Q. Looking at the club’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?
For the best-ever game, there are lots to pick from! Maybe winning 3-2 at home to St Patrick’s Athletic to secure the league title in 2012.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?
I wouldn’t call us fans as strange as that might seem. We are supporters! Every supporter goes above and beyond in terms of keeping the club alive. We have no sugar daddy, so we need to do the work ourselves in terms of fundraising, manual work on the stadium, and whatever it takes, we do it ourselves. That can be the best and worst part of being a Sligo Rovers supporter. Sometimes we’d love to be a fan that comes to games, pays their entrance fee, and then goes home again. Sligo Rovers is a vocation, a way of life from generation to generation.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Sligo Rovers?
Off the field, we have submitted planning permission for a refurbishment and upgrade of our ground to a 6,000-seater stadium. This needs to happen to future-proof the club for the next 50-60 years. On the field, we’d hope to requalify for Europe and possibly win the FAI Cup again.
A massive thank you to BORST for answering our questions on the League of Ireland Premier Division side Sligo Rovers. Remember you can find their website, social media accounts, and podcast in the links towards the top of the blogpage.
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