The first of our series of fan profiles is Bartosz Bukowski.
LEO GRAY lists 20 uplifting moments and events over the course of the last 20 months which offered fans of Sligo Rovers some welcome respite from the relentless deluge of despair and frustration during the Covid 19 pandemic
1: BORST (Bit O Red Supporters’ Trust) FUNDRAISER
When the outbreak of Covid in Ireland forced the League to a devastating halt in March 2020, Sligo Rovers were plunged into a major crisis, with no meaningful income and huge uncertainty over what the future had in store. In a situation which called for steady nerves and unprecedented fortitude, the Bit O Red Supporters’ Trust came to the rescue, launching a major rallying call to the club’s fan base throughout Ireland and the Sligo diaspora in every corner of the globe. By the time the fund closed, over €85,000 had been raised – a staggering response, illustrating in a very graphic way the special place Sligo Rovers Football Club holds not just in the local community but in the hearts of Sligo people wherever they reside.
2: VITAL WIN IN DERRY
A season-defining fixture marked the restart of the League in 2020 with bottom of the table Rovers taking on North West rivals, Derry City, at the Brandywell. Another defeat here would have left the Bit O Red facing a relegation dogfight. Instead, we got a glimpse of what was to come as rejuvenated Rovers, feeding off the tremendous response to the fundraising efforts of the previous few months, secured three priceless points thanks to goals by Kyle Callan McFadden and Ronan Coughlan.
3: ANNIE WEST
Acclaimed illustrator, Annie West lent her considerable talent to Rovers’ cause with the production of a magnificent portrait of the club’s rollercoaster history. The unique illustration captured the very essence of the club, displaying images of the characters and personalities who enriched the Sligo Rovers story down through the years. Nancy Callaghan, Dixie Dean and Johnny Chada are just some of the great Rovers legends featured in Annie’s iconic production.
“I’m not really a football fan but it looked like Covid was about to do something bad to Sligo Rovers and I just thought it would be nice to help out in some way”, Annie explained.
Sales of the beautiful poster have raised substantial funds for the club.
4: EVERTON PARTNERSHIP
The association between Sligo Rovers and Everton Football Club goes back a long way – all the way to 1939 in fact when the legendary England star Dixie Dean joined the Bit O Red in what is still considered one of the all-time great coups by an Irish soccer team. Add former Showgrounds hero, Seamus Coleman, to the mix and you get some idea of the significant links between the two clubs. Now all of that has been copperfastened by a new strategic partnership between Rovers and Everton. The initiative involves links across a broad range of important areas, including commercial, fan engagement and coaching. The partnership will be of enormous benefit to both clubs. In Rovers case, it will enable the club’s coaches to acquire new skills and knowledge and in a wider context will help the club to grow its fanbase in Ireland and overseas.
5: EUROPEAN QUALIFICATION 2021
From bottom of the table in July to European qualification at the end of the season. That was the extraordinary journey fashioned by Liam Buckley and his outstanding team. Rovers place in the 2021 Europa Conference League was secured with a thrilling 2-0 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park in the last game of the 2020 campaign. Jesse Devers set the scene with the opening goal and Ronan Coughlan made sure of a famous victory with a stunning second in injury time.
6: BABY BOOM
We all needed a lift during the gloomy days of Covid 19 and Rovers certainly came up with a gem of an initiative when they announced that every new-born baby at Sligo University Hospital during 2021 would receive a Rovers jersey as a special gift on the day of their birth. It’s estimated that the project will see about 1,000 families in Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Roscommon and Mayo receiving a replica of Rovers 2021 jersey. It’s the first such initiative undertaken by a League of Ireland Club and stemmed from an idea first mooted by the BORST. It will ensure that a love of Rovers will pass from one generation to the next – which has always been the way of things in Sligo, and it is also the club’s way of acknowledging the heroic work of the frontline staff at Sligo University Hospital during the pandemic
7: PODCAST PLEASURES
Rovers fans got an extra treat when the BORST launched a new podcast last Autumn. It’s a top class production, for the fans by the fans. Conor Lynch is a superb and knowledgeable anchor man and the passion of his co-presenters Shaun Dunne, Shane McGoldrick and Gerry O’Connor literally jumps out at you. Serious analysis, enthusiastic banter and cracking interviews are the main items on the menu but literally anything can, and frequently does, crop up along the way. The podcast has grown to be one of the most popular in the country in the last few months – and it’s easy to see why. If you haven’t yet given it a listen, be sure to get on board. It’s a sheer delight.
8: THE SHOWGROUNDS WALL AND OUTDOOR MUSEUM
The impressive improvements to the Showgrounds over the last number of years will stand as a lasting legacy to this current period in the club’s history. And striking features of recent developments are two magnificent initiatives – the Showgrounds Wall and the Outdoor Museum.
The Wall affords fans of the club an opportunity to honour special people in their lives – past and present – by erecting a special tile on a new commemorative wall at the Showgrounds. It’s a lovely idea and will be treasured by generations to come. It’s proved to be a great success with phase 3 of the Wall now in construction.
The Outdoor Museum acknowledges some of the legendary players, committee members and volunteers who gave invaluable service to the Bit O Red down through the years. From Dixie Dean to Tony Fagan to the modern heroes, it’s a who’s who in the storied history of Sligo Rovers. Earlier this year, the club produced a special video, offering a virtual tour of the Museum with narration by Jim Gray, and it’s well worth a look. These two initiatives are unique in the League of Ireland and emphasise yet again what a wonderful community club we are fortunate to have on our doorstep.
9: SUCCESSFUL ACADEMY
Rovers continue to produce top quality players through their Academy system, a fact underlined by the number of graduates currently operating to a successful level with the first team. The appointment of Conor O’Grady as Head of Academy and the introduction of under 17 and under 19 girls teams this season are important developments which will underpin the success of the under-age structures of the club for boys and girls over the coming years. A number of Academy players received international recognition this season.
10: SHREWD RECRUITMENT
After the commendable progress during 2020, recruitment during the off-season was crucial to moving forward this season. And manager Liam Buckley certainly delivered the goods. Securing the services of the vastly experienced, Greg Bolger, was a smart piece of business as the former St. Pat’s, Cork City and Shamrock Rovers midfielder, has been immense this term. But several other new recruits have been just as influential. Jordan Gibson was a class act in the early part of the campaign while Robbie McCourt, Colm Horgan and Walter Figuera all played a part in establishing Rovers as genuine Euro contenders. Adam McDonnell and Andre Wright added further depth to the squad when they joined in the Summer window.
If you ever needed proof that Sligo Rovers Football Club is more than just about winning trophies, the masterful documentary by Oisin and Michael Moran offers compelling evidence. ‘Shine’ pays due homage to the glory days and those who fashioned them but, more importantly in the context of the overall status of Rovers as a cherished part of Sligo’s fabric, it’s a deep dig into the very core of the club. Interviews with long standing fans reveal the extraordinary sense of identity associated with following Sligo Rovers. The interview with Joe Martyn, who is in his 90s and retains a boyhood love for his local club, sums it all up perfectly. The gorgeous music of Pearse McGloughlin adds to the uplifting experience.
12: JOHNNY KENNY
The emergence of Johnny Kenny has been one of the great joys of the season. Rovers has always been a welcoming club and we’ve had many genuine heroes to acclaim from all over the World but there is always something special about a young local lad stepping up the mark. Johnny Kenny didn’t lick his talent off the stones, as they say. His dad, Johnny, was a mesmerising winger back in the day, and a smashing lad to boot. Young Johnny has all his Dad’s flair and pace and exuberance, but he’s a star in his own right and the Showgrounds faithful love him. Three goals in as many games for the Irish U.19s recently underline his unlimited potential.
13: TAKING THE SPOILS AT TALLAGHT
Any win over Shamrock Rovers is to be treasured so I had to include the 1-0 victory over the Hoops at Tallaght early in the season in the top twenty. The result, fashioned from a highly efficient display, took Rovers to the top of the table, which made the victory all the sweeter. The only goal of the game was a cracker, Jordan Gibson’s inch-perfect pass duly dispatched in classic style by Romeo Parkes. In the words of the co-commentator on the night, it was ‘defin-nightly’ a memorable occasion for the Bit O Red.
14: JOEY N’DO
The gift that keeps on giving. He dazzled us during his playing career, now he’s delightfully entertaining us as a co-commentator on some of Rovers matches. Football is the beautiful game but few see the beauty in it the way Joey sees it. He’s on a different level, maybe even a different planet, when it comes to expressing the sheer joy and fulfilment one gets from watching twenty-two athletes battling for supremacy on a football field. Exhilarating. Welcome to Heaven, Welcome to Heaven.
15: JOSEPH CULLEN
Beautiful moment of the season goes to Rovers decision to dedicate their win over Finn Harps at Ballybofey on May 28th to Sligo’s Special Olympian Joseph Cullen. Earlier that week, Joseph was discharged from Sligo University Hospital after 114 days battling Covid 19. A fanatical Bit O Red fan, Joseph won a Gold medal in the 100m Medley at the World Summer Games in Athens in 2011.
16: ROVERS FANS RETURN
Fans were welcomed back to the Showgrounds for the first time since March for a League game against Drogheda United on June 12th.Unfortunately, the occasion fell a bit flat when the Drogs snatched a shock 2-1 win. However, supporters who gained entry to the home game against Bohs a few weeks later were treated to champagne football as the Bit O Red produced a sensational performance, trouncing the Dubliners 4-0. A special night.
17: PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Rovers reputation as one of the most progressive clubs in the country was further enhanced with the publication of a comprehensive development plan. An ambitious project, costed at €17.3m, will include major developments at the Showgrounds as well as the provision of a new Academy complex on a separate site. Spearheaded by Chairman, Tommy Higgins and the Board, and with the endorsement of the FAI and Sligo County Council, the scheme will see the enhancement of the existing Treacy Avenue and Railway End stands, the construction of new stands at Jinks Avenue and the Church Hill end of the Stadium, the installation of new floodlights, turnstiles, shops, corporate and hospitality facilities, upgraded media facilities and a Gym. When complete, it will comprise a 6,000 all seater stadium.
18: GIRL POWER
In what is seen as a highly significant development, Rovers, in partnership with IT Sligo, announced plans to form a senior women’s team with a view to joining the SSE Airtricity National League from the 2022 season. The IT extended sports scholarships to women soccer players, giving them the opportunity to play at senior level for Rovers. The initiative will give female footballers in the region something to work towards academically and in sporting terms.
19: GET YOUR PASSPORTS READY
For the second year in row, Rovers defied the odds to claim a place in European football. A poor run of form after the Summer break threatened to derail the club’s Euro bid but when the pressure came on in a tense run-in to the League, Rovers delivered in stunning fashion. A 2-2 draw away to Finn Harps was followed by three crucial wins on the bounce, 2-0 at home to Drogheda, a dramatic 1-0 win over Longford at the Showgrounds and then a pulsating 3-0 victory away to St. Pat’s. A place in the 2022 Europa Conference League had been secured with two games to spare, ensuring that the loyal Red Army will be on the march next Summer.
20: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
With attentional already turning to the 2022 campaign, ambitious Rovers wasted no time in securing the services of several key players from this season’s squad. All seven players nominated for the coveted Player of the Year award 2021 have been tied down for the forthcoming campaign. They are Ed McGinty, Lewis Banks, John Mahon, Robbie McCourt, Gary Buckley, Johnny Kenny and Greg Bolger. Other valuable member of the 2021 squad, including Colm Horgan, Adam McDonnell and David Cawley are also on board.
Sligo Rovers fell to a 1-0 defeat against Waterford on Sunday afternoon in the Regional Sports Centre due to a Cian Kavanagh rocket early in the second half. The result means that Rovers lie in third place, missing the chance to tie level with St. Pats on second.
Liam Buckley made two changes for Sunday’s match with Mark Byrne and Johnny Kenny coming in for Ryan De Vries and Romeo Parkes who started against Hafnarfjordur on Thursday. Waterford made one change for this game with the suspended Prince Mutswunguma being replaced by Cian Kavanagh.
Rovers started the first half well and threatened with some chances on goal but the momentum in the clash shifted when a clash of heads in Waterford’s box forced switches of personnel and strategy halfway through the half. The game stagnated after this with few chances for either side until the break.
Waterford came out strong after half-time and put the ball in the net only for it to be ruled out as an indirect free-kick was scored directly. It was long after this though that the ball would be in McNicholas’ net legitimately from the boot of Cian Kavanagh after he found space on the break outside the box and struck a zinger into the top corner. Waterford were content to sit deep and disallow space in their third and despite the Bit O’Red’s subs, there was no breaking down the deep block of Waterford.
I’m feeling a bit of déjà vu actually, since my first report on here was a 1-0 away defeat to Waterford! See you next time against Cork City in the cup on Saturday.
SLIGO ROVERS: L McNicholas, L Banks, G Buckley (A McDonnell 74), S Blaney, R Donelon, J Gibson, M Byrne (S Keogh 64), N Morahan, D Cawley (C Horgan 64), J Kenny, W Figueira (R Parkes 64).
WATERFORD: M Connor (P Martin 25), D Power, K Ferguson (G Forrest 25), E Nolan, J Milambo (J Stafford 68), J Quitirna (J Tshipamba 82), N O’Keeffe, S Griffin, A Wordsworth, J Martin, C Kavanagh (T Sobowale 88).
REF: David Dunne
Luke McNicholas: 6 – Couldn’t have done much for the goal.
Lewis Banks: 6 – Adventurous as usual on the right.
Garry Buckley: 6 – Left for dead by Kavanagh before he scored. Taken off for McDonnell with 15 or so left.
Shane Blaney: 6 – Was decent but not great today.
Regan Donelon: 5 – Didn’t get involved on the left.
David Cawley: 6 – Didn’t carve as many chances as was hoped before the game. Replaced by Horgan.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Kept it moving in midfield.
Mark Byrne: 6 – Taken off for Keogh after an hour, he hadn’t shown much before then.
Jordan Gibson: 6 – Couldn’t add end product to his game today.
Walter Figueira: 6 – Wasn’t as direct as he could’ve been. Subbed off for Parkes.
Johnny Kenny: 6 – He was energetic but isolated.
Seamas Keogh: 6 – Brought some drive once he was on.
Colm Horgan: 6 – Kept it tight for the time he was on.
Romeo Parkes: 6 – Didn’t do too much wrong.
Adam McDonnell: N/A – Didn’t get enough of the ball in his limited time on the pitch to deserve a rating.
Sligo Rovers were unfortunate not to win away in the Kaplakriki Stadium in Iceland to a determined Hafnarfjörður side who made the most of their rare chances when former Dundalk man and Icelandic footballer of the year Steven Lennon headed home with 5 minutes to go, mere minutes after Greg Bolger’s second yellow card. We play FH again next Thursday in the second leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round in an attempt to overturn the defecit.
Only one change was made from our win against Longford on Saturday; and an enforced one at that with Luke McNicholas taking the reins in the sticks for Ed McGinty, who suffered an ankle injury last time out.
The game was an even affair throughout with Rovers just about having the upper hand in the first half, although the stalemate was threatened halfway into the half when Lennon headed onto the post. Rovers responded well though and could’ve gone into the break ahead when Romeo Parkes slipped in Jordan Gibson but his effort was smothered by Nielsen in the FH net.
The second half would continue in similar fashion with plenty of half-chances for either side until Walter Figueira broke Hafnarfjörður’s line and square across to Gibson, who slammed his effort into Parkes to deflect wide. This shifted the momentum Rovers’ way until Greg Bolger picked up a second yellow card 12 minutes from time for simulation inside FH’s penalty area, with Ishmael Barbara having no doubts while brandishing the red card to send our skipper off. This put us under the cosh and we were made to pay in the 85th when a venomous cross from Vok Dimitrijevic was met by Lennon who made no mistake with his header this time and glanced into the top corner, leaving McNicholas with little hope.
Well, at least we’ve got a tantalising second leg in the Showgrounds for 400 fans to enjoy in the ground. Join me again for another report.
SLIGO ROVERS: L McNicholas, C Horgan, L Banks, S Blaney, G Buckley, J Gibson, M Byrne (D Cawley 64), N Morahan, G Bolger (Red card 78), R De Vries (W Figueira 64), R Parkes.
FH HAFNARFJÖRÐUR: G Nielsen, G Kristjánsson, P Vidarsson, G Þórisson, H Gunnarsson, B Sverrisson, E Jonsson, J Jónsson (B Guðlaugsson 93), Þ Helgason (V Dimitrijevic 82), S Lennon (O Heidarsson 93), M Vilhjálmsson.
REF: Ishmael Barbara
Luke McNicholas: 6 – Proved an able deputy to McGinty on Saturday and again today.
Colm Horgan: 6 – Again, he wasn’t too gung-ho on the right channel but he did his job.
Garry Buckley: 6 – A good performance for a returning player.
Shane Blaney: 6 – Performed solidly today especially against a side of this calibre.
Lewis Banks: 6 – Did well in an unfamiliar position.
Greg Bolger: 5 – His first yellow was required, the second one was silly, especially for a player with his experience. The suspension leaves us in a pickle for the second leg.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Did decent in the midfield today.
Mark Byrne: 6 – Was effective on the right but was taken off for Cawley with half an hour left.
Jordan Gibson: 7 – Came close twice and looked our most potent threat.
Ryan De Vries: 6 – Seems to be at his best up top but was deployed on the left today. Taken off for Figueira after an hour.
Romeo Parkes: 6 – Played well but if he hadn’t blocked Gibson’s shot it could be a different story.
David Cawley: 6 – Shored things up when he came on.
Walter Figueira: 6 – Did really well to create Gibson’s second-half chance.
Sligo Rovers won 1-0 against Longford Town in a partly full Bishopsgate with 500 fans in attendance on Saturday night with Jordan Gibson scoring from the spot before Ed McGinty was forced off in an eventful evening. The result leaves us level on points at the top of the table with Shamrock Rovers only after St Pats’ loss yesterday.
Liam Buckley made 3 changes to the starting XI from the Bohs trouncing with John Mahon, Regan Donelon and Johnny Kenny missing out on selection due to injuries sustained in training. Richard Brush also dropped out of the squad due to an issue, leaving Luke McNicholas deputising on the bench for goalkeeping duties (that’s called foreshadowing). Colm Horgan, Garry Buckley and Romeo Parkes took their place as Longford remained unchanged from their draw against Finn Harps.
Rovers started the game well, keeping composed in the first phases of possession with controlled short passing. Jordan Gibson made use of this with two chances in the first half of the first half which he put over the bar and wide but it was third time lucky for the Englishman after Romeo Parkes did brilliantly to control a ball over the top and win a penalty which Gibson tucked away very nicely indeed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after this when Ed McGinty was forced off some time after a collision with Garry Buckley left him unable to continue, which lead to Luke McNicholas taking his place in the 36th minute. Strangely enough, Rovers seemed to up a gear after this change, with Lewis Banks coming close on 41 minutes at the back post after a vicious corner.
Rovers’ dominance continued and showed on the 57 minute mark with some beautiful build-up play from our boys leading to a chance from Gibson which was deflected wide. Our best was yet to come though with Romeo Parkes snatching the ball and bearing down on goal, but was let down by a heavy touch which rushed his strike onto the bar, with Mark Byrne collecting the ball and crossing to Ryan De Vries whose shot was saved incredibly by Lee Steacy in the Longford net. This proved to inspire Longford and shift the momentum in their favour, with the outfit having two big chances in the following few minutes before the Bit O’Red began to wrest control back, with Ryan De Vries heading just wide on the 70 minute mark. Our good work was nearly undone after McNicholas’ clearance from a Longford break fell to Aodh Dervin who spotted our deputy goalie off his line and attempted to volley into the net spectacularly, but his effort just went over the bar. The momentum fell Longford’s way after this as Rovers fell into a deep block, but it wasn’t enough for the home side as the match finished 1-0 to Sligo Rovers.
Boom, job done. Next time is the big one, the first leg of our first ever Europa Conference League (a rebranded Intertoto Cup if you’re of that vintage) game against FH Hafnarfjörður (copy/paste, what a beautiful thing – I got to “Hafnar” before I had to consult Google). Join us after for another report.
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty (L McNicholas 36), C Horgan, L Banks, S Blaney, G Buckley, J Gibson (W Figueira 90), M Byrne (D Cawley 73), N Morahan, G Bolger, R De Vries, R Parkes.
LONGFORD: L Steacy, P Kirk, J Manley, A O’Driscoll, S Elworthy (C Davis 78), A Dervin, A Robinson (R Manley 75), D Grimes, D Zambra (M O’Brien 46), A McNally (K Chambers 46), A Dobbs ().
REF: Graham Kelly
Ed McGinty: 6 – Hopefully he recovers soon. We wish him all the best.
Colm Horgan: 6 – Not as involved in an attacking sense on the left but he was solid defensively.
Garry Buckley: 6 – The Return of the King. We immediately looked more solid with him in the backline.
Shane Blaney: 7 – Picked up a yellow but looked comfortable now that he’s had a run in the starting XI. Did really well late on to stop Grimes through on goal
Lewis Banks: 6 – Did well on the right.
Greg Bolger: 6 – Especially tenacious in the rain tonight but
Niall Morahan: 7 –
Mark Byrne: 6 –
Jordan Gibson: 7 –
Ryan De Vries: 7 – Linked up well with the rest of the front 4.
Romeo Parkes: 7 – Did incredibly well to win the penalty – that touch :O – he was unlucky not to score on the hour mark.
Luke McNicholas: 7 – Was really confident despite coming on. He’s a more than capable backup for McGinty in any case.
David Cawley: 6 – Did what he was instructed to do coming on – kept it simple.
Johnny Kenny netted a hat-trick and Ryan De Vries converted coolly to ensure Sligo Rovers took the chance to draw level with Shamrock Rovers and St Pats on top of the table with a 4-0 win in the Showgrounds on Saturday evening. The trouncing was a much-needed win for the Bit O’Red, being our first since the summer break.
Liam Buckley made no changes to the team which drew in Derry on Monday night, with the six academy graduates starting in the Ryan McBride Brandywell returning tonight. Bohemians and Keith Long would also remain with the same XI which started their match on Monday.
Rovers held the authority for the opening stages of the match and were able to make the breakthrough early on, with Jordan Gibson’s deflected free-kick coming back to him outside of the box, his second bite of the cherry getting parried out to Kenny who tapped into a virtually empty net. His, and our second would come in similar fashion with a low drive across the box from the right being bundled in by the 18-year-old.
The Bit O’Red continued to fight and showed good character throughout the second half, with Ryan De Vries battling to win back possession from Bohs’ defense near the halfway line, and remaining cool while bearing down on goal to score our 3rd goal of the match. Kenny completed his hat-trick on 80 minutes, collecting the ball inside the box and finishing with aplomb to Talbot’s left. He had a chance to make it four in added time with a spectacular first-time volley but his effort ran just past the post.
What a game!! Next up is Longford Town next Saturday. We’ll be back then with another report.
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, L Banks, J Mahon, S Blaney, R Donelon (C Horgan 76), M Byrne, G Bolger (D Cawley 78), N Morahan, J Gibson, R De Vries, J Kenny.
BOHEMIANS: J Talbot, C Kelly, R Cornwall (A Lyons 46), R Feely (J Finnerty 61), T Wilson (A Breslin 46), R Tierney, K Buckley, A Coote, D Devoy, L Burt (K Ward 61), G Kelly.
REF: Damien McGrath
Ed McGinty: 7 – Could’ve been a tighter game without his saves.
Lewis Banks: 7 – Whipped in some venomous crosses from the right.
Shane Blaney: 6 – Played decent.
John Mahon: 7 – Calm and composed at all times.
Regan Donelon: 6 – A solid performer in McCourt’s absence. Taken off for Horgan late on.
Greg Bolger: 6 – Commanding in the middle. Replaced by Cawley with 10 minutes to go.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Nearly scored but his shot was blocked, compounding his good performance.
Jordan Gibson: 7 – Dangerous throughout the match.
Ryan De Vries: 8 – Converted his chance really well.
Johnny Kenny: 10 – He was the heart and soul of the team today and showed us what Rovers are all about (also he got a hat-trick so that’s pretty good I guess).
Mark Byrne: 7 – Quietly performing well up forward.
David Cawley: N/A – Was effective in his time on.
Colm Horgan: N/A – Only had 15 minutes when he replaced Donelon but he was tidy throughout his cameo.
Sligo Rovers were left to rue what could have been after Jordan Gibson’s second-half strike was cancelled out by Ronan Boyce’s deflected effort 5 minutes from time at the Ryan McBride Brandywell on Monday evening. The late goal was a tough one to take as if the Bit O’Red were to see out the match, we would be level on points with Shamrock Rovers and St Pats on top of the table.
Liam Buckley made 4 changes from our defeat in Richmond Park last Friday with Robbie McCourt (injury), Colm Horgan, Walter Figueira and Romeo Parkes being replaced by Regan Donelon, Shane Blaney, Johnny Kenny and Ryan De Vries respectively. Derry made 1 change from our last game against them, with Ciaran Coll being replaced by Daniel Lafferty.
The first half was fairly benign, but it had its fair share of chances, with David Parkhouse hitting over on 33 minutes and Johnny Kenny unleashing a drive towards goal soon after which was saved well by Nathan Gartside. The half ended in unfortunate fashion as Eoin Toal was forced off due to an injury, with Danny Lupano taking his place.
The second half was certainly a more interesting affair, proved by Jordan Gibson’s opener after 55 minutes after Mark Byrne’s astute flick left him one-on-one with Gartside. This lead was threatened on the hour mark with Jack Malone’s curler forcing an excellent save from Ed McGinty, however the Bit O’Red struck back through Kenny attempting to lob Gartside from range, the Riverstown forward’s effort ending up just wide. With 5 minutes to go, our firm defence unraveled after Ronan Boyce’s effort was deflected into the net past a hopeless McGinty. He was once again called into action to prevent Will Patching’s thunderous volley.
A frustrating game but in the same breath, our first points since the break. Join us again on Saturday (well if my delay is anything to go by it’ll be the Saturday after match but anyways) for another report.
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, L Banks, J Mahon, S Blaney, R Donelon, M Byrne (D Cawley 77), G Bolger, N Morahan, J Gibson, R De Vries (R Parkes 77), J Kenny (W Figueira 77).
DERRY CITY: N Gartside, R Boyce, E Toal (D Lupano 45), C McJannett, D Lafferty, C Harkin, J Malone, W Patching, W Fitzgerald, J Akintunde, D Parkhouse (M Walsh 63 (P Ferry 80)).
REF: Derek Tomney
Ed McGinty: 6 – Was unlucky on the goal.
Lewis Banks: 6 – Did well on the right.
Shane Blaney: 5 – Unlucky with the deflection for the equaliser.
John Mahon: 6 – Defended Parkhouse et al well.
Regan Donelon: 6 – Deputising well for McCourt.
Greg Bolger: 6 – Good and tenacious in the middle.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Making a good partner to Bolger.
Jordan Gibson: 7 – A constant thorn in the Derry defence’s side and was rewarded with the goal.
Ryan De Vries: 6 – Did decent. Taken off for Parkes with 13 minutes left.
Johnny Kenny: 7 – Did well on his return to the starting XI. Subbed for Figueira late on.
Mark Byrne: 7 – Cleverly assisted Gibson’s goal
Romeo Parkes: N/A – Came on late.
David Cawley: N/A – Came on late (x2).
Walter Figueira: N/A – Came on late (x3).
Sligo Rovers produced a lacklustre performance against table-summit rivals St Patrick’s on Friday evening, collapsing to a 2-0 defeat in Richmond Park. Matthew Smith and Ronan Coughlan (our former talisman) scored the goals either side of half-time due to some unimpressive Rovers defending.
Liam Buckley made one change from the reverse fixture, with Lewis Banks replacing the injured Garry Buckley, who is proving to be a big loss on this side. Pats also kept 10 players from the game in the Showgrounds, with Sam Bone being replaced by Robbie Benson.
Rovers started the game poorly, conceding as early as 7 minutes in after Jordan Gibson coughed up possession to Alfie Lewis, who played in Robbie Benson but the Saint was dispossessed by John Mahon in vain as Matty Smith struck home in the bottom corner. The half really wouldn’t get any better for Rovers as the Inchicore boys forced us to camp in our own half for the majority of the period.
Whatever Liam Buckley said at half time must have invigorated the Bit O’Red as the lads came out swinging for the second half. Rovers controlled the game for much of the half, creating opportunities and carving chances until the 72nd minute, when an incisive break from Pats led to Greg Bolger tripping up Matty Smith in the box led to a penalty, which Ronan Coughlan duly converted. After this, Pats were content to let us have the ball as a lack of penetration in possession led us to a comprehensive defeat.
Oh well. Next up is Derry City away from home on Monday. Join us then for another report.
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, C Horgan, J Mahon, L Banks (J Kenny 83), R McCourt (R Donelon 44), N Morahan (D Kane 83), G Bolger, M Byrne (S Blaney 83), J Gibson, R Parkes, W Figueira (D Cawley 66).
ST PATS: V Jaroš, I Bermingham, L Desmond, A Lewis, P Barrett, J Mountney, C Forrester, R Benson (J Lennon), B King (D Burns 62), M Smith (I McClelland 87), R Coughlan.
Ed McGinty: 6 – Wasn’t at fault for either goal and made good saves throughout.
Colm Horgan: 6 – Back in the squad for this game, didn’t stick out but he wasn’t awful.
Lewis Banks: 6 – Did his best in an unfamiliar role. Taken off for Kenny late on.
John Mahon: 6 – Somewhat to blame for the first goal but he did well aside from that.
Robbie McCourt: 6 – Unfortunate to play up the knock. We wish him all the best.
Greg Bolger: 6 – Gave away the penalty but he was aggressive throughout.
Niall Morahan: 6 –Was well marshalled by the Pats midfielders. Came off for Kane with not long to play.
Walter Figueira: 6 – Wasn’t able to dribble at the Pats defence. Cawley came on for him with 25 to play.
Jordan Gibson: 6 – The Pats defenders knew him from his time there and dealt with him accordingly (had a cool nutmeg in the first half too so bonus points for that)
Romeo Parkes: 6 – Had flashes but was largely isolated up top.
Mark Byrne: 5 – Wasn’t at his best on the right. Came off for Blaney after 83 minutes.
Regan Donelon: 6 – Did well deputising for McCourt.
David Cawley: 6 – Wasn’t bad when he came on.
Johnny Kenny: N/A – Only had 10 minutes.
Shane Blaney: N/A – Only had 10 minutes x2.
Danny Kane: N/A – Only had 10 minutes x3.
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.
Sligo Rovers won 2-1 over a determined Finn Harps side in Finn Park on Friday evening, cementing our place at the top of the table by 4 points, although Shams have a game in hand. Romeo Parkes scored and got sent off on either side of Tunde Owolabi and Lewis Banks’ goals, with Ed McGinty securing the win with a collection of showreel saves in the latter stages of the match.
An unchanged team from our victory at Tallaght Stadium started the match in Ballybofey, with David Cawley, Danny Kane and Darren Collins out injured. Finn Harps made only one change from our last game against them in the Showgrounds, with Owolabi coming in for Mark Russell.
The first half was a crazy affair, beginning with two goals in 60 seconds through Romeo Parkes and Tunde Owolabi to make it 1-1 after 6 minutes. Romeo’s strike came from a corner palmed away into his lap allowed him to volley home. Before the end of the half, however, the ball was in our net through Tunde Owolabi after Harps carved open our defence. There were some more hairy moments through Owolabi, who drew saves from McGinty and put a big chance wide near the half-hour mark.
The frenetic pacing of the match continued into the second half as both teams began to make things scrappier, although Rovers went ahead on the hour through Lewis Banks of all people, when aerial pinball from a corner led to him being able to volley past Mark McGinley. It was a mere 2 minutes after this when a red card was brandished by Paul McLaughlin to Romeo Parkes for… something after staying calm during an altercation with Kosovar Sadiki. Liam Buckley didn’t panic after this questionable decision and instead chose to replace our goalscorer Lewis Banks with Colm Horgan, a switch becoming ubiquitous in recent games. With their man advantage, Finn Harps began to dominate proceedings, forcing Ed McGinty into a string of exquisite saves to keep the Bit O’Red ahead. Johnny Kenny replaced Walter Figueira in the 78th minute to freshen up the attacking trident before McGinty produced his magnum opus in added time with a world-class stop up and to his left from a bullet header off the head of the substitute Sean Boyd.
What a game! Unfortunately, that’s all she wrote for this part of the season, we’ve got a break for a fortnight until our next game (Drogheda at home on the 12th of next month). If all goes well, some fans might be able to access the Showgrounds for the first time in a while (I think, I didn’t pour through the government plan yet but sure look). If you can’t, you’ll have my report to fall back on.
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, L Banks (), J Mahon, G Buckley, R McCourt, J Gibson, G Bolger, N Morahan, W Figueira (J Kenny 78), R Parkes (Red Card 62), M Byrne.
FINN HARPS: M McGinley, D Webster (J Dunleavy 67), E Boyle, K Sadiki (M Russell 84), S McEleney, T Owolabi, K O’Sullivan (S Boyd 78), W Seymore (R Connolly 78), M Coyle, B McNamee, A Foley (T McNamee 84).
REF: Paul McLaughlin
Ed McGinty: 8 – Produced a number of sublime stops from Owolabi et al. That last minute stop…. The only negative is that Everton could snap him up from this partnership.
Lewis Banks: 7 – Finished with the composure of a 20-goal-a-season striker. Taken off for Horgan a couple of minutes after.
Garry Buckley: 6 – Was decent. Got spun a couple times but recovered.
John Mahon: 6 – Was kept honest by Owolabi but played well.
Robbie McCourt: 6 – Decent on the left.
Greg Bolger: 6 – Tenacious as he always is.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Found nice pockets of space when we were in possession in the defensive third to build out from.
Walter Figueira: 6 – It was always gonna be difficult with Harps’ low block for him to work his magic.
Jordan Gibson: 6 – Found some nice pockets between the Harps midfield and defence.
Mark Byrne: 6 – Productive with his crosses from the right wing.
Romeo Parkes: 7 – Was at the right place at the right time to open the scoring. Thank goodness we won otherwise this report would be 400 words of Paul McLaughlin libel after that decision for the red card.
Colm Horgan: 6 – Efficient as ever on the right.
Sligo Rovers emerged victorious over fierce rivals Shamrock Rovers in a tightly-contested duel between the two sides at the summit of the table. The victory, obtained through Romeo Parkes’ second-half strike, sends us top of the league at the Tallaght side’s expense.
A good few tactical changes and some fresh faces in the starting line-up for this clash against the champions with Lewis Banks moving to a more familiar right-back position with Colm Horgan making the bench. Greg Bolger and Mark Byrne also returned to the starting XI in Horgan and Johnny Kenny’s place respectively.
The first half didn’t cause too much concern for either side in terms of chances conceded but it there were flashes of panic at each goalmouth throughout the half, however before this Joey O’Brien was unfortunately required to leave the pitch after sustaining a calf strain early on. On came Max Murphy in his place, and the show went on, with Sean Gannon coming close with a deflected effort from about 20 yards. The most hair-raising moment of the half came right at its conclusion, with Roberto Lopes nearly turning Dublin 23 against him with a certainly interesting backpass to Alan Mannus which Romeo Parkes almost intercepted.
The second period really brought the action as Rovers (us, of course) took control of the match despite Shams’ possession by hitting fast and powerfully on the break. This is how we ended up taking the lead, with Jordan Gibson pouncing on a loose ball to release Romeo Parkes very well who finished with conviction at Mannus’ near post. This was how the game was to continue until Johnny Kenny came on for Mark Byrne, with the former injecting pace in the press against the Hoops’ defence. Ryan De Vries came on with 4 minutes of normal time left to offer another fresh body to the the ball to the corner, and it was near the corner of Shams’ half where Neil Doyle blew his whistle, sending the real Rovers top.
Great to be back on top. Sorry it’s so late everyone, I was too busy celebrating (let’s just say that). Next up is Finn Harps this Friday.
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, L Banks, J Mahon, G Buckley, R McCourt, J Gibson, G Bolger, N Morahan, W Figueira, M Byrne (J Kenny 69), R Parkes (R De Vries 86).
SHAMROCK ROVERS: A Mannus, S Gannon, J O’Brien (M Murphy 8 (D Williams 78)), L Grace, R Lopes, L Scales, D Mandriou, G O’Neill (C McCann 70), G Burke, R Gaffney, A Greene.
REF: Neil Doyle
Ed McGinty: 7 – Organised the back so well.
Lewis Banks: 7 – Kept the onrushing Scales et al. quiet.
Garry Buckley: 8 – This don was made for central defence, there’s no way you can tell me he played as a 10 two seasons ago.
John Mahon: 7 – Did well up until the equalizer.
Robbie McCourt: 7 – Added attacking quality to his defensive efforts.
Greg Bolger: 6 – Picked up a yellow against his old side for persistent fouling but aside from that he was wicked.
Niall Morahan: 6 – Tenacious in the centre.
Walter Figueira: 6 – Showed some nice trickery but he was unfortunate against Gannon.
Jordan Gibson: 7 – That ball for Romeo’s goal ohh la la…
Romeo Parkes: 7 – Not a classic Romeo-oh-oh performance by any means.
Mark Byrne: 6 – Decent performance from the young lad. Taken off for Kenny.
Johnny Kenny: 6 – Was good and energetic against the tired Shams defence.
Ryan De Vries: N/A: Wasn’t on long enough.
Sligo Rovers returned to the Showgrounds with a commanding 2-0 win over Longford Town after our scheduled fixture with Waterford was forfeited. The result leaves us within striking distance of our next opponents, Shamrock Rovers at the top of the table.
Liam Buckley changed things up somewhat with Lewis Banks in the centre of midfield to cover for Greg Bolger and David Cawley, who both missed the match due to suspensions and injuries. Ryan De Vries also made a start replacing Romeo Parkes, who dropped to the bench.
The first half started with each side having chances to score, however it was Rovers and Walter Figueira who struck to break the deadlock with an arrowed effort from 30 yards which left Kelly hopeless. Longford weren’t out of the game by any means though and had chances to score before and after Figueira’s effort through Dylan Grimes and Aaron Dobbs.
Longford were forced into a change early on in the second half after an injury to Shane Elworthy ended his evening, with Karl Chambers coming on in his place. Not long after that, a venomous Robbie McCourt corner caused a scuffle in the box which led to a handball, with Ben Connolly quick to point to the spot. Gibson took the penalty – Gibson celebrated. After this the game started to stagnate just a touch as Rovers were happy to make systemic and personnel changes to preserve their lead, with Regan Donelon and Shane Blaney reinforcing the backline in lieu of Johnny Kenny and Colm Horgan, with Lewis Banks reverting to his more natural right back position. These switches allowed Rovers to sit deep and counter with ease as Longford searched in vain to muster a comeback.
Nice to be back, and also good to hear Joey N’Do back on commentary. His vocalisations really enhanced the viewing experience. Next up, as I said earlier, is Shams, and if we win, we go top. No pressure then, lads!
SLIGO ROVERS: E McGinty, C Horgan (S Blaney 77), J Mahon, G Buckley, R McCourt, J Gibson, L Banks, N Morahan, W Figueira, R De Vries (R Parkes 63), J Kenny (R Donelon 80).
LONGFORD: M Kelly, P Kirk, J Manley, A O’Driscoll, S Elworthy (K Chambers 58), A Dervin, A Robinson (A Bolger 64), D Grimes, R Manley (S Verdon 73), A Dobbs, C Thompson (C Davis 73).
REF: Ben Connolly
Ed McGinty: 6 – Didn’t have much to do but he kept a clean sheet (!!!) and distributed well.
Colm Horgan: 6 – Played well but wasn’t busy. Replaced for Blaney with not long to go.
Garry Buckley: 7 – “The commander-in-chief” – Joey N’Do, 2021. Need I say more?
John Mahon: 7 – Inpenetrable at the back out there.
Robbie McCourt: 6 – Set-pieces were on point today.
Lewis Banks: 6 – Looked like a natural centre-midfielder, which was no mean feat.
Niall Morahan: 6 – A complete performance but nothing unbelievable.
Jordan Gibson: 7 – Threatened and got his reward with the penalty.
Johnny Kenny: 6 – The only time he gets the ball into him it’s nearly in orbit. It must be really frustrating. Taken off for Donelon late on.
Ryan De Vries: 6 – Played alright on the right but looked better centrally.
Romeo Parkes: 6 – Nearly sent Joey into raptures in added time but he put his shot over.
Shane Blaney: 6 – Had a brilliant 50/50 close to the end and as we all know, 50/50’s win games, not the outdated concept of goals.
Regan Donelon: N/A – A decent cameo. Found himself in the opposition box at one stage but it wasn’t to be.