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Sligo Rovers v Longford- Match Preview

Sligo Rovers face Longford Town FC this Saturday, for the third time this season. The game will be held away from home, at Bishopsgate, adding diff iculty with their more compact and narrow pitch.

Sligo Rovers sit 3rd in the table with 35 points, on an equal footing with St.Pats and Shamrock Rovers who lie in second and first place. Longford lie in 10th place, at the very bottom of the table.

This season, the previous fixtures against this side have both resulted in wins for us, 1-0 and most recently 2-0. However, they were not easy victories, the opposition threatened continuously, pressing high for large periods of the game. In both fixtures Longford had several close chances on target.

Last week seen an outstanding performance for the Bit O’Red, earning a 4-0 win over Bohs, who were also a strong side who played very well. This performance will be remembered among supporters not only for it’s brilliant score-line but for the hat-trick achieved by Johnny Kenny.

Team News

Our defense is slightly altered as Mc Court cannot play due to a wrist injury. Defender Donelan, who played our fixture against Bohs is doubtful due to a hamstring injury. Horgan is likely to start in replacement of one of these defenders. On a positive note, Gary Buckley has recovered from his injury and can return for this game. The midfielder was absent for the last 2 fixtures and the absence of his link-up play mid-field was noticed. His return brings a more solid yet adaptable mid-field ahead of the fixture.

New signing and academy graduate, Seamus Keogh, is awaiting national clearance but it likely to start against Longford, either on the starting 11 or as a substitute. Keogh plays as an attacking midfielder and although it will take time for him to gel with the squad, the 19 year old has a rack of experience through playing for Premier League Southampton and through the captaining of the underage national side. His wealth of experience and enthusiasm as a young player will prove an energetic addition to our side.


Looking at the previous 5 games for both sides, Sligo Rovers have managed 2 losses, 2 wins and 1 draw. Longford have struggled much more with 3 losses, 2 draws and no recent win. Statistically, looking at the table and recent fixtures, Sligo Rovers do seem the much more dominant side and likely winners of this fixture. However, Longford can create chances, and are fast on the counter attack. Aaron Mc Nally is probably Longford’s biggest threat ahead of this fixture. Mc Nally has netted most of the goals for his side in recent games and has speed.

Even with their recent losses to St.Pats and Waterford, Longford managed to score each game. All of their recent draws seen the side score also, resulting in several 1-1 score lines. The side clearly has an ability to score regardless of the final scoreline. Sligo Rovers however are much further up the table, 26 points ahead of Longford and have impressed consistently since the season began. The Bit O’Red have scored double the number of goals as Longford so far this season which makes a Sligo Rovers win very likely.

However, as I said, Longford can score, and tend to score every game, even when they lose. So my prediction is 2-1 to Sligo Rovers. If Kenny does start, and follows his form from last weekend, one of our goals is very likely to come from him.

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Sligo Rovers v Bohemians- Match Preview

The Gypsies head to The Showgrounds tomorrow, Saturday 25th June to take on the Bit O’Red. Bohs lie in 4th place with Sligo Rovers just above them in 3rd. Bohs are only 5 points behind, but across their last 5 games, have remained undefeated. Sligo Rovers on the other hand have had a few disappointing results recently, with 2 losses and a draw after sitting top of the table by the mid-season break. Both teams are certaintly driving to win this game and retain positions in the top 4.

Recent Games

Bohs come to Sligo having bet last seaons’ champions Shamrock Rovers 1-0 earlier this week. Days earlier they defeated Drogs 5-0, which is a substantial win considering Drogheda are seriously impressing this season, and were one of our toughest opponents so far. This is one of the highest scorelines across the League this season. Bohs also managed to net 5 goals against a struggling Dundalk last month. The Dublin side are clearly a high goal-scroing side.

Although Sligo Rovers were defeated by St Pats, who sit top of the table, and Drogheda in recent weeks, form, play and results were consistently impressive since the season opened. Despite drawing to Derry on Monday, our tempo, pace and drive are improving as we dictated the pace and were the better side for large periods of the game. A win would be a brilliant result and prove that we are back out of this short slump.

Who to watch out for

The main man to be wary of for this game is Georgie Kelly, without a doubt. Kelly is the League’s top goals scorer this season, having scored 11 goals so far. Looking at recent games alone, Kelly netted 4 goals against Drogheda, including a hat-trick, and scored the winning goal against Shamrock Rovers. A lot of clubs across the League are lacking a go-to- goal scorer, but Bohs seem to have found this through Kelly. The forward also has speed, brilliant footwork and brings an extremely high drive and tempo with him. Discussing this game Kelly stated

‘Sligo have had a couple of disappointing results so they’ll be all guns blazing looking for the win but we feel like we can beat anyone in this league’.

Our defense needs to remain extremely solid to close in on his pace and press his continous attack. Quick strong clearances will be essential to prevent conceding. Kelly tends to press very high as a centre forward so will most likely have chances one on one with Mahon. Another player to keep an eye on is left- winger Ali Coote who has scored 4 goals this season, and provided 2 essential assists.

Our Squad

We are nothing short of impressive players and signees this season either. Greg Bolger will again prove pivotal with his experience and leadership skills, which will be needed in a high pressure tight game like this. Bolger commands the squad each game and is essential in retaining the ball across the midfield. Jordan Gibson and Romeo Parkes are potential goal scorers for this game, depending on link-up play coming through the midfield. Gibson is known for his ‘wonder’ goals and is a brilliant striker from distance. Parkes has the ability to work the ball up field and score, and is very good with set pieces. Parkes has been an ‘on and off’ player in recent games and often takes some time to get into the game, but if this is one of his good nights, he is a possible goal scorer.

Johnny Kenny may or may not be part of the starting 11. Most supporters agree that he should start, bringing enthusiasm, pace and drive. Having Kenny start dictates the tempo from the opening minutes. Mahon will remain essential for long clearances on the back line and will likely be put under a lot of pressure throughout the game. Although Kelly is a top goal scorer, Mc Ginty is one of the Leagues’ top goalkeepers. Mc Ginty has managed some brilliant saves in recent games and can hold the same pressure this fixture. He also plays very cleverly often coming off the line as a sweeper keeper.

A Prediction

Boh’s are in the middle of a very impressive spell notably thanks to Georgie Kelly, while Sligo Rovers are battling a disappointing couple of weeks in the season. The Bit O’ Red will probably have a higher drive to win than they did in recent weeks, in order to prove themselves as a top of the table club. On the other hand, Bohs will push the same in order to further prove they are able to retain this good spell and remain unbeatable.

Given this, it will probably be an extremely fast paced and tight game. Depending who dictates the tempo, the game could really go either way. Neither club is an outright dominant side going into this fixture. If goals are scored by either club it is likely they will come from set pieces. If the game is as tight as imagined, injuries, cards, free kicks and penalties are likely, which both teams need to be wary of.

A predicted score is very difficult for this particular fixture, however most neutral LOI supporters and pundits are backing a tight draw. If Sligo Rovers pick up the tempo and retain the drive they had in the opening games of the season, a win is very doable!

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Greg Bolger wins LOI Player Of The Month Award May 2021

Bit O’Red captain Greg Bolger has grabbed the League of Ireland Player Of The Month award for May 2021. Amongst Bolger, nominees included notable players such as Derry City’s Will Patching and Drogheda’s Gary Deegan. This is the second time Bolger has won the award, having been awarded the same nomination in 2016 while with Cork City. Bolger accepts this award as the first Sligo Rover’s player to achieve this title since 2013 when Anthony Elding and Danny North both were awarded.

Having only signed for us this season, Bolger has already proved a key player in our rise to top place in the table. Bringing with him experience from Cork City, St. Pats and Shamrock Rovers, he has become a squad leader on and off the field. Bolger not only impresses with his skill, footwork and determination but continuously leads his team through his direction and example. Bolger has been a key player in our starting 11 for every game since this season. His linkage play with players such as Buckley, Morahan and Gibson further upfield, has provided our side with a much more solid and adaptable midfield in comparison to last season.

His role as leader has become more evident across the League as Sligo Rovers not only rose to the top of the table, but managed to stay there, defeating 2020 champions Shamrock Rovers, who sat comfortably at the top of table since the start of the season. Bolger gained attention across the League for his performance in this game against Shamrock Rovers on 24th May. He altered between pushing back into defence when needed but also pressed high when there was an opportunity, he was all over the field and intercepted a series of balls allowing us to exchange our defensive position to a counter attack. This proved how skilful and adaptable Bolger is as a player.

Bolger is highly impressed with our club’s side and improvement since his signing

“I think there could have been two or three Sligo lads up for the award because everyone has been excellent. It’s nice that I’ve won it and I’m grateful but it could have been any of my team-mates”.

The midfielder admits

“My performances have been good and I’m happy enough but I still think there is more in me”.

We will next see Bolger in action this Saturday as Sligo Rovers take on Drogheda Utd, another team who have impressed this season. The match will be held in The Showgrounds, and will be the first time home supporters are allowed back in the ground since this season has begun, with 100 season ticket holders set to attend.

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Kenny- ‘Player Of The Month’ nominee. Who else in the squad deserves similar recognition?

SSE Airtrcity League Player Of The Month nominees were listed on Wednesday. The possible candidates include our very own Johnny Kenny, who has seriously impressed so far this season. Kenny has already scored 2 goals in his 9 appearances. We will all remember his very close attempt on Monday as we took on St Pats. Having only came off the bench a couple of minutes, his shot went wide of the netting by only inches. Although it was a real pity that he missed, he arguably put in more work in those few minutes off the bench than some did the entire game. I think a lot of us would agree that he deserved this recognition. Especially considering that this is his first professional season for the club and is certainly one of the hardest working players on the field. But who else deserved to be in the mix? Two in particular stand out to me….

Impressive signee

Jordan Gibson stands out as a first possible suggestion. Having signed from St Pats this season, he has seriously impressed. Not only with his goal-scoring success but with his overall play. Gibson has scored 3 goals for us so far; one being recognised as a potential goal of the season against Waterford, as he struck the ball into the top corner of the net. Gibson is an essential component of the starting 11 for every game and shows impressive link-up play up-front with Figueira, Parkes and Kenny. Gibson displays some serious footwork too and works extremely well under pressure when surrounded and cornered. He often is the go-to man for corners and free-kicks and rightly so. He has a brilliant ability to curl the ball at height providing good opportunity to catch defenders off – guard. This also creates potential for headers in the box.

His passing is tactically impressive also, he rarely lets the ball loose in the mid-field. He is a very fast player and is essential in keeping the tempo speed-driven. Gibson proves this by often being the key link between midfield passes and the assist that further leads to the goal. He steps up at pivotal moments in the games. Personally, I think he is one of the best signees this season and has seriously impacted the squad’s depth. He is a very flexible and adaptable player who isn’t restricted to going on the attack alone. His linkage and dribbling is as impressive as many mid-fielder’s.


Vital defender

John Mahon, the vital cog in the defensive line. This suggestion might not be as popular as Gibson. Defenders are typically under-rated and don’t get much attention excluding the rare moments where they essentially save their keeper. Only one defender is a nominee this month and that’s Shamrock Rover’s Liam Scales. Mahon is not short of recognition- winning Player of the Year 2018 while also remaining first choice defender since 2019. He also was called up for international time. We certainly have a solid defensive line going into this season between Mahon, Mc Court and Horgan. Mahon is the only of the three to have experience with the club, having come through our own academy system. You can tell he brings that security and confidence to the squad with this experience and familiarity to the club and ground.

While Mc Court and Horgan tend to press forward and involve themselves further into the mid-field, Mahon tends to stay closer to Mc Ginty and proves essential in this way. Just thinking back on the St Pats game for example, Forrester was left unmarked to run on the counter attack a couple of times. If it wasn’t for Mahon who remained pressed back, there could have been a couple more chances for the Saints.

Mahon is frequently cornered near the posts but manages to avoid giving away corners and close throw-ins and instead manages to boot the ball up-field. I think we can all admit that the power of a corner cannot be underestimated after Monday’s game. A lot of other defenders attempt to instead dribble past the attacker to escape, hoping to go on the counter attack. Mahon avoids this much riskier tactic which has led to some easily-avoidable goals in the past. Mahon is what a lot of commentators consider an ‘old fashioned defender’ who focuses mostly on clearances and tends to avoid playing out from the back. His sheer physicality and strength, despite his horrific injury, definitely benefits the defensive line.

Mahon blocks a St Pats attack (BIT O RED PHOTOGRAPHY)

Squad Leader

These two players have caught my eye as vital to the squad and to the success we have had so far. Both Gibson and Mahon rarely have an ‘off day’ compared to other players such as Parkes who has proven a hit-and- miss in recent games. Another player to possibly throw into the mix is Greg Bolger who has become a leader and commander within the squad. He physically orders and pushes the team on but also leads by example. This ‘leader’ role is something the club lacked last season and you can see the positive eff ect it has so far. The squad is much more driven and press much higher. Clever choices are more frequently made on time-management and the avoidance of fouls in particular circumstances. Bolger’s experience alone has proven only a benefit to the squad.

Bolger takes on his leadership role

The 6 nominees for the award are Graham Burke, Liam Scales, Ronan Coughlan, Chris Forrester, Johnny Kenny and Adam Foley. The results will be announced in coming days. It would seem likely Burke will scoop this one up after scoring successive goals, particularly his famed strike from the half-way line against Derry. We would love to see Kenny get this recognition, but he surely will be in the mix as a possibility for this and many more awards down the line, and has lots of time yet!

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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.


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.