Preview Season 2023
WHO ARE WE
We are Sligo Rovers, the most westerly club in European football playing in a Premier Division. Founded in 1928, we are both fan owned and fan funded. Although based in Sligo Town, we are supported throughout the region with fans travelling from all over the North West to see us play every weekend. We have won every major honour in Irish football including the Premier Division 3 times, the FAI Cup 5 times and the League Cup twice. When you cross the River Shannon heading West and you hear the word Rovers, you can be sure we are the only topic of the conversation. Also known as The Bit O’Red because of our colours, we are proud of our community club ethos and love to see new faces coming through the turnstiles.
WHERE WE PLAY
We play in the Showgrounds on Church Hill and this has been our home since the club’s inception. In 1968 the Showgrounds was purchased for Sligo Rovers by a Trust that represented the people of Sligo. Under the terms of the purchase, it can never be mortgaged, sold, or used for any commercial purposes other than sporting and leisure activites. In January of this year, following years of hard work by our management committee, we were granted planning permission for the redevelopment of the Showgrounds. The plans will bring the stadium to a standard above any other in the league and secure the future of the Showgrounds as one of the best places on the island to watch or play a game of football. However, the real hard work of securing the funding to bring the plans into fruition begins now. The hope is to have the new stadium ready for our centenary in 2028.
Our most famous players in recent times are Seamus Coleman, current Everton and Ireland captain and LOI legend Joseph N’Do. During WW2, Dixie Dean, the all time English league scoring record holder, played with us for a season. Our most famous fans are probably Westlife, who actually played live in the Showgrounds at half time as their career was just starting to take off. Major winning golfer Shane Lowry is also known to be a fan of the Bit O’Red. We are connected with Celtic through the sons of both cities leading their respective clubs to glory in the past. Sligo man Sean Fallon is an iconic Celtic figure and played a crucial role in the Lisbon Lions European glory. Glaswegian Willie McStay led Rovers to a First Division and FAI Cup Final double in the 93/94 season as player manager.
We play in the League Of Ireland Premier Division. The league is predominantly occupied by clubs on the east coast which makes us kind of outliers. To the West of us is the Atlantic, to the North is the billionaire backed Derry City, to the South is the billionaire backed Galway United (albeit they play in the First Division), and to the East are the cash rich clubs from Dublin. As a fan owned club, we have to fight for every cent we make and consequently watch every cent we spend. As a result , unlike many of our competitors, we have never gone bust and, while we may not have as much silverware as some of them, when we do achieve success it tastes so much the sweeter.
We are managed by John Russell, a former player during the most successful period of the club’s history. John took over from Liam Buckley last summer and oversaw our best ever European campaign, winning 4 games and getting through two rounds. The wins included a home and away victory over SPL side Motherwell and defeating Norwegian side Stavanger at home. John has introduced a high intensity and exciting style of football to the Showgrounds and has impressed fans with his attention to detail and ability to find talented recruits, most notably from Eastern Europe. Having lost 9 players from the squad that performed so well in Eurpope last season, here’s hoping our new arrivals can hit the ground running.
We have two highly rated young keepers in Luke McNicholas and Conor Walsh. Both lads have been capped by Ireland at underage level and Luke won the IFA Cup with Cliftonville during a loan spell last year. Luke looks set to start as No1 for the start of the season but Conor will no doubt be snapping at his heels following some impressive pre season performances.
New signing Danny Laverty brings a wealth of experience to our back 4 having signed from Derry. He once shared a dressing room with Emiliano Martinez and has played at the highest level across the pond. New Zealand international Nando Pijnaker signed with us on loan last season from Portuguese premier league side Rio Ave. He liked us so much he made the move permanent and looks set to play a big role for us again this year. Local lad John Mahon left us last year to join SPL side St Johnstone and has come home, much to the delight of the Rovers faithful. John is known for his never say die attitude and his bravery and commitment on the pitch. Rising star and academy graduate Eanna Clancy is one to watch in what looks like breakthrough season for the talented young Leitrim centre half.
LOI legend and serial winner Greg Bolger has been a lynchpin in our midfield in recent seasons and has been aided and abetted by Ballina native and club captain/legend David Cawley. Leitrim man Niall Morahan is returning from injury and will be pushing to cement a starting berth. New signing Lucas Browning looks to be an astute capture, comfortable on the ball along with an excellent range of passing. He certainly looks set to become a fan favourite. Bogdan Vastuk is an attacking midfielder with a wealth of European experience and has also been capped for his home country Estonia. Local lad Kailin Barlow forced his way in to the first team last year and is steadily gaining the reputation of a dead ball specialist. One to watch here is another academy graduate Sean McAteer. Having grown up literally across the road from the Showgrounds, Sean is on a scholarship programme with ATU. He has been a revelation in pre season and looks set to have a big season ahead of him.
There is no doubt losing the league’s top scorer Aiden Keena so late in the transfer window has been a setback for the Bit O’Red. However, we still have some quality players up front. Kiwi Max Mata signed last season and has won fans over with his hard work and big performances, most notably scoring the winner against Motherwell in our second leg tie in the Showgrounds last year. Frank Livaak, another Estonian international, signed last season and quickly became one of the first names on the team sheet after his arrival. His hard work and running with the ball often causes chaos in the opposition’s box. Will Fitzgerald won Rovers fans over with his mazey runs and tireless running and will be big player for us again this season. Fabrice Hartman was signed on loan from RB Leipzig last season but, due to an issue with his registration, never got to don the Rovers jersey. Thankfully, he has stayed with us again for another spell and looks like potentially one of the most exciting prospects in the league. The pacey and direct attacker will no doubt light up the league and we are all looking forward to see him play. John Russell is looking to add a striker/strikers before the start of the season and, who ever he manages to get in, let’s hope they can make as big an impact as Aidan did.
While we would love to win the league, it is an almost impossible task for us given the financial might we will face on a weekly basis with the likes of Shams, Derry and Pats to name but a few. If you were to offer any Rovers fan now a top 4 finish and a good cup run, we would take it. There is a good cup run in this side and , maybe without the distraction of European football, this could be the year. In any case, there is sure to be plenty of highs and lows (hopefully more highs), cracking goals, controversy, big performances and unforgettable nights. Win or lose, there is nothing on this earth like supporting your local team and enjoying a live game of football and all the emotion and excitement it brings. We’re looking forward to seeing you all in the Showgrounds to loudly cheer on the Real Rovers.
UP THE BIT O’RED