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From a 3-1 victory to a 1-0 loss, a once off or a new habit?

Patching scores a penalty resulting in a 1-0 victory for the Candystripes. (Eoin Nonnan).

We highly impressed on 20th April, with a 3-1 victory over Bohs playing away from home. Jordan Gibson volleyed the ball into the net following impressive play as Parkes and Kenny linked the ball up-field. Mark Byrne scored his first professional goal for the club having been taken on as a substitute. David Cawley followed suit leaving the bench and scoring our 3rd goal. Both teams had periods of domination and possession. Rovers played with a fast tempo and pressed high on the attack for the majority of the game. Our defensive line was probably the strongest it’s been yet, as Horgan and Mahon particularly cleared dangerous balls.

Points but not performance

Liam Buckley has admitted on several occasions that although he was ‘delighted with the points’, he didn’t feel performance was up to standard. This was particularly evident as we took on Waterford. He was underwhelmed by the team’s performance in their 2-1 victory at the RSC, despite having come from behind with wonder goals from Parkes and Gibson sealing all three points. Buckley summarised the opening games ‘Our general play was nowhere near up to scratch’.

A victory to Longford and a draw with Shamrock Rovers followed. Although a draw with 2020 Champions was impressive, the game was reasonably equal and little chances were made. Buckley admitted there ‘really wasn’t much to the game’. Points were gained but Buckley remained reasonably unimpressed. That was until the victory to Bohs, where he claimed ‘we worked extremely hard and all our goals were top class’. This win stood out , ‘We’ve shown a bit of character’.

Mark Byrne celebrates his first senior goal with Kenny

Buckley was the most satisfied he had been all season, and supporters were highly impressed having being undefeated so far. However, 4 days later the same team suffered a 1-0 loss to Derry City , who were and still are scrapping the bottom of the League table. This game had felt a guaranteed or ‘safe win’ according to many supporters. What went wrong to go from a 3-1 victory to a 1-0 loss to the tables bottom team?

Similar starting squad

In terms of the starting 11, Buckley has nearly always used the same first squad. He also makes use of subs sparingly. He tends to make the right choices, so far subs Kenny, Cawley and Byrne have scored coming off the bench. It is important to note that the Bohs side we played had made 5 changes to their starting squad. Derry on the other hand came onto the pitch with a familiar starting 11. Whether or not this could’ve made a difference is questionable. Surely a team with the same starting 11 they’ve used all season are more secure than a drastically changed starting squad? Without doubt, our first team have quickly gelled this season. Particularly on the attack with link-up play between Parkes, Kenny and Gibson proving impressive. We made use of only 3 subs in the Bohs game, with 2 of them scoring. In contrast we made 5 changes in the Derry game.

The dreaded penalty

We always have to factor in the ref in these games. Neil Doyle refereed for the Bohs game with John Mc Laughlin supervising the Derry game. Mc Laughlin is typically considered one of the ‘stricter’ refs, who tends to give away ‘easy’ free-kicks, cards etc. The loss at Derry came solely from a penalty given to the Candystripes early into the second half. Mahon was claimed to have tripped Parkhouse in the box, leaving Patching to take the penalty and score. There was controversy over this penalty as the tackle did not look particularly rough and seemed unavoidable in the crowded box. Mahon is one our most experienced defenders, and if this was a once-off slip up, we can surely move past it?

Mahons tackle resulting in a penalty (BITORED PHOTOGRAPHY).

A slow tempo

There were chances early on in both games but the tempo of the Bohs game did not follow suit as we took on Derry. As guest commentator Joey N’do explained, Derry controlled the game. The tempo was kept at their pace, with regular fouls allowing Derry to use-up valuable time. The Bohs game was intense from the get-go and was an extremely entertaining game to watch. Derry on the other side started a little quieter. After the first 20 minutes our tempo came to a halt. The game at times was stalemate. It is fair to say that the game was equal in performance and a draw would’ve been a fair result.

Is it fair to completely blame our loss on this penalty? We have come from behind before this season, and there were practically no attempts to salvage a draw. Rover’s first shot on target happened on the 89th minute, from distance, which just proves our attack was seriously lacking.

Fatigue

Could fatigue be blamed for the loss? Rovers had already played a game that Tuesday. 3 games in seven days with the same starting first team may explain the slow tempo and lack of energy/drive. But playing a series of successive matches is something the team will face again and need to be prepared for. This will be particularly important with two big upcoming games, St Pats on May 3rd and Dundalk on May 7th.

David Cawley

A once off?

Was this loss to the bottom-of-the-table team a once off or is it something you can see happening again after a period of going undefeated? It was our first time losing at all this season, which has to be expected at some stage. Was it better to lose to Derry and win to Bohs, or have lost to Bohs and won the lower Derry side? Surely beating the Dublin team higher in the table was more impressive?

Whether it was a bad decision by the referee, a dodgy tackle in the box, fatigue or just pure bad luck, it was our first defeat all season. Hopefully this is not something we repeat again especially with more dominant sides. A lot of LOI fans argue that the loss means us supporters were too naive to claim we were in the title chase so early. But can one defeat to a penalty really prove that?
As Buckley said the squad is pressing higher this season, has more depth and is working extremely hard. Us supporters will hope that this was a once off slip up. Although this may have affected the squads confidence, we hopefully still look threatening going ahead and aim to be the side to beat.

We take on Drogheda this Friday, a side fresh out of the First Division. However, they have impressed over-all, sitting in 5th place. A loss to this side could slowly see us slip down the table further.

What do you all think?

A once off mistake or the start of a slower tempo side who will struggle in the next few games?

Sligo Rovers squad vs Derry (BITOREDPHOTOGRAPHY)
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Sligo Rovers’ Academy producing pivotol players

Johnny Kenny

17- year old Johnny Kenny’s winning goal against Finn Harps exemplifies the product of Sligo Rovers underage academy system. Kenny is a brilliant example of a young player who rose through the ranks, signing his first professional contract for the club this January. He played for his schools side- Coola Post Primary School while also playing for his local club- Arrow Harps. Kenny went on to join Rovers U-17 team, making a big impression in recent years. This culminated in Kenny being the top scorer in the U-17 Airtricity League, having racked up 17 goals in 8 games. Having progressed to the U-19 team, he proved pivotal scoring two goals in the Shield Semi-final and four in the Final.

Johnny Kenny scores his first professional goal (Credit: Bit O Red Photography).

After signing professionally for the Bit O’ Red this season, Kenny was highly involved during pre-season friendlies. He impressed scoring a series of consecutive goals. This created a remarkable reputation as a potential goal-scorer for the club. Kenny was part of the first-team squad for every game so far this season and was taken off the bench for the game in which he scored his first ever professional goal on 17th April . Rovers’ are not necessarily short of goals, but there is a void in the position of go-to goalscorer. This is particularly evident this season as the attacking line has drastically changed. The forward-line altered having lost both Junior and Coughlan this season. Instead Figeuira, Kenny and Gibson signed, as Parkes returned.

No.1 Academy graduate

Kenny is not the only impressive academy graduate to prove pivotal to the Sligo Rovers squad. Goalkeeper Ed Mc Ginty also came through the ranks. Mc Ginty played every minute of every game during the compressed 2020 season. He is often recognised as one of the League’s most skilled keepers. The young keeper gained international recognition as he was called up to play with the Ireland U-21 squad. Mc Ginty has been nominated for Sligo Rovers ‘Player of the year 2020’, after being recognised as ‘Man Of The Match’ on several occassions. Mc Ginty originally hails from Scotland and gained under-age experience with both Celtic and Hibernia.

After moving to Ballyshannon as a teenager, Mc Ginty joined Rovers’ U-19 ranks. Throughout this period, he was involved with the senior squad pre-season friendlies. Ed began his professional debut in 2017 and continues to wear the No.1 jersey since the 2019/2020 season. He has now established himself as first choice keeper. Mc Ginty has signed a further 2 year contract with the club in November 2020. He explains he is willing to ‘commit long term to the club’ and ‘is just getting started’.

Ed Mc Ginty (The Sun).

Local talent

Collooney native John Mahon began his football career with experience at his local club- Ballisodare United. Mahon quickly progressed from Rovers’ U-17 side to training with the U-19 side. Mahon began his professional career with the club in 2017 and remains a key link in the solid defensive line. Having been awarded ‘Young Player of the Year’ for the club in 2018, he remained first-choice defender throughout 2019.

Mahon has played over 60 matches for Rovers despite being ruled out for 8 months due to a broken leg. The Sligo native’s progress has not gone unnoticed as he was called into the U-21 Ireland camp in 2019. Both Celtic and Rangers were interested in the defender alongside Blackburn Rovers and Derby County. Mahon is noted for his physicality and talent in the defensive role. Mahon has also signed a 2 year contract for the Bit O’ Red in 2020, claiming that he ‘wants to get to the next level’. Liam Buckley admits ‘ he has a fantastic career ahead of him’.

Sligo native John Mahon

Player of the season

Midfielder Niall Morahan, who was awarded Sligo Rovers Player of the season 2020, also progressed through the under-age system in place at The Showgrounds. Leitrim native Morahan began training withSligo Rovers U-17 side in 2015. In 2018 he stepped up to the club’s U-19 side and also made his professional debut this year. In August 2019 Niall signed a long term deal with Rovers via Sligo IT’s sports scholarship programme. Morahan extended his contract in October 2020. Niall explains the benefits of coming through the youth system, noting that it prepares you to ‘be up to speed with the intensity and physical demands of the league’.

Although Morahan was utilised at right-back early in his professional football career , he is now being positioned in the middle of the pitch, which he prefers. Morahan also gained an international name in 2019 having been called up for the U-19 Ireland side. Morahan has been a notable midfielder on the first-team throughout the 2020 season. Heading into this season, he has been recognised for his impressive passing and linkage play. Several other players on the first-team squad have graduated from the under-age system, but are yet to join the starting 11.

Niall Morahan Player of the year 2020

Next generation

Sligo Rovers currently have five academy teams playing in the League of Ireland National Underage Leagues. The youngest team, the U-13 side, have played two seasons and are managed by Alan Farry with the assistance of Kieran Brick. Throughout 2021, this age group will be changed to U-14 meaning even more potential players can train with the team. The U-15 side managed to top their group in Phase One last season and are highly competitive. The success of this side is owed to coaches/managers Marcel Gordon, Paul Materson and Conor O’ Grady. The U-17 side, under the management of Ryan Casey, finished the 2020 season strong also. The final academy group, the U-19s, compete in the Under-19 Shield Competition and are highly competitive.
Sligo Rovers also hold a competitive season with their under-age women’s side. The team have played against challenging sides such as Shamrock Rovers and Champions Peamount United. Therefore, the potential lies for a future Sligo Rovers senior womens’ team.

Sligo Rovers U-17 women’s team


Without doubt, Sligo Rovers under-age academies have played a pivotal role throughout the years. The system continues to do so, having integrated young players into the senior squad as professional athletes. This of course is the ultimate goal of the academy. Coaches, managers and all involved in the academies have much to be proud of. The after-product of the system proves highly successful. Many League of Ireland supporters admire this system, preferring to see locals rise through the ranks, as supposed to continuously signing players from abroad, while losing our own to foreign teams. The academies at The Showgrounds continue to provide pivotal players to the senior Sligo Rovers squad and are sure to foster talent and develop the future players of our club.