Sligo Rovers F.C.
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|Full name||Sligo Rovers Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Bit O'Reds|
|Capacity||5,500 (4,000 seated)|
|League||League of Ireland Premier Division|
Sligo Rovers Football Club (Irish: Cumann Peile Ruagairí Shligigh) is an Irish professional football club playing in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland. The club is based in Sligo in the west of Ireland.
The club was founded in 1928 and have been in the League of Ireland since 1934. The club is a co-operative venture, owned by the people of Sligo. Rovers have played at The Showgrounds since their inception. In 2013, they won a third FAI Cup in four years, and also became the 2012 Premier Division Champions, winning the league with two games to spare. In total they have won three league titles, five FAI Cups and two League Cups.
Sligo Rovers Football Club was formed on 17 September 1928 as a result of an amalgamation of two junior sides, Sligo Town and Sligo Blues. Their first game was a 9–1 victory against Ballyshannon, a team from County Donegal in Ulster, on 23 September 1928 in the qualifying round of the Connacht Cup. The club, elected to the League of Ireland in 1934, hails from Sligo and play their home matches at the Showgrounds and have done so ever since their inception. The home colours are red with white sleeve uppers, with white shorts and socks while the away colours are black with yellow sides, black shorts and yellow socks. The third alternative kit is navy with red sleeve uppers, navy shorts and navy socks with a red upper part.
1928–1940: Early success
The club started well by winning the FAI Junior Cup in their first season, beating Grangegorman in the final at the Showgrounds 3–0. The following season also brought silverware in the shape of the Connacht Junior Cup with Rovers beating Galway in the final 1–0 after a replay. At the beginning of the 1931–32 season the club successfully applied to join the Dublin-based Sunday Alliance League and won their first game at this level by beating Windy Arbour 4–2 at the Showgrounds and went on to win the league, finishing four points ahead of Westland Sligo. After this success the club moved up another level the following season by joining the Leinster Senior League and played their first game away to UCD in August 1932 and won 4–2. The club performed well in their first season at this level eventually finishing third as Brideville won the league. This season also saw The Bit O' Red make their first appearance in the FAI Cup, winning in the First round against Brideville 3–1 before going out to Shelbourne in the next round 5–2. The next year, the club won the Leinster Senior League in only their second year at this level by beating Distillery in a play-off at Tolka Park 3–2 after the teams had finished the league level on points. The team also won the Intermediate Cup, winning 5–1 against Waterford side Tramore Rookies in the final at Dalymount Park, as well as the Metropolitan Cup, beating Queens Park 3–0 in the final at Tolka Park to secure a remarkable treble for the young club.
Following this achievement the club was elected to the Free State League on 28 June 1934 along with Waterford as both Shelbourne and Cork Bohemians resigned from the league. Scotsman Bob Preston, ex-Heart of Midlothian, Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United player, managed the team in their first season at the highest level of Irish football with the first game being a 3–1 defeat in the Shield at the Iveagh Grounds in Dublin against St. James Gate. Tommy Callaghan scored Rovers' goal. The team finished third in that season with Gerry McDaid finishing as top scorer. During this season local Paddy Monaghan won two caps for the Irish national team and is still the only man to have achieved this while at the club.
The 1936–37 season began in spectacular fashion with Sligo winning their first 11 games and they clinched their first league title by beating Cork 4–3 with two games of the season remaining. Trainer and captain that year was Jimmy Surgeoner in his only season at the club. Top scorer was Englishman Harry Litherland whose record of 19 league goals that season was surpassed by Eoin Doyle in 2011 season scoring 20 league goals. The club also won the Dublin City Cup this year beating Dundalk in the final. Two years later, in 1939, the club reached their first FAI Cup final by beating Dundalk 2–1 in the semi-final. A crowd of 30,601 went to Dalymount Park to see Rovers take on Shelbourne in the final which ended in a 1–1 draw. The replay was held at Dalymount Park 10 days later on 3 May with 28,369 in attendance to see the Dublin side record a 1–0 victory thanks to an early goal. The club were also runners-up in the league that year finishing nine points behind winners Shamrock Rovers making it another good season for the club.
The following season once again saw the club come close to winning a trophy on two occasions. First was a 3–2 defeat to Bohs in a play-off for the shield after the two sides finished level on points. Also that year the club reached its second consecutive FAI Cup final with Shamrock Rovers providing the opposition in front of a crowd of 38,500 on 21 April. Unfortunately for Rovers, it was Shams who ran out 3–0 winners. Despite this success the club decided that because of The Emergency the club could no longer compete in the league and withdrew from football.
Before the cup campaign of 1939 the club's committee decided they needed a big name to fill the vacant centre-forward position. They got in touch with some contacts in England, one of whom was the manager of Everton who suggested that Dixie Dean, who was at Notts County at the time, could be available. Although coming to the end of his career Dean was still one of the biggest names in football due to his goalscoring feats during his time at Everton where he is still the club's all-time leading scorer and also holds the record for having scored the highest amount of league goals in a single season — 60 in 1927–28. Despite rejecting Rovers' initial offer the club's improved second offer was accepted by Dean and a massive coup was pulled off by the club. A huge crowd turned up at Sligo Railway Station to give Dean a hero's welcome. Dean duly scored on his debut, a game against Shelbourne in the Showgrounds on 29 January and went on to score nine more in his seven league appearances for the club, including five in a single game against Waterford. He also scored in the FAI cup final of that year in the 1–1 draw with Shelbourne though the replay would be lost 1–0. Dean's runners-up medal was stolen after the game but he did however have it returned to him seven years later when he was back in England. Dean returned to Ireland in 1978 to see Sligo Rovers play in the FAI Cup final of that year.
1948–1976: Return to football and trophyless years
Following the end of the war Rovers began attempts to return to the league. In 1945 the club couldn't raise sufficient funds to facilitate this and the following year improvement works at the Showgrounds delayed the return by another year. In 1947 Rovers applied to rejoin the league but were unsuccessful as the league decided to maintain its structure of eight teams. A year later and the club were this time successful and were readmitted to the league along with Transport for the 1948–49 season. After two quiet seasons Rovers were once again challenging for honours, this time going close to winning the league title. Going into the final game of the season against Transport, Rovers needed a win to finish level on points with Cork Athletic and force a play-off but they could only draw 0–0 and finished second, a point behind Athletic. The Cork side also denied Rovers in the FAI Cup knocking them out 2–0 at the semi-final stage. At the beginning of the next season the club signed Scottish forward Johnny Armstrong who would go on to stay with the club for several years and become the all-time leading goalscorer.
The next few seasons saw Rovers finish around mid-table. On 6 March 1955 one of the most famous games the Showgrounds has seen took place when Rovers were drawn to face Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup. Before the match Rovers announced that they had signed Austrian International Albert Straka to play in the game and this attracted much attention resulting in a crowd of over 7,000. In the final minute with Rovers 2–1 down a penalty was awarded and up stepped Straka to equalise and create jubilant scenes. Rovers would go on to lose the replay. Rovers finished the 1956–57 season in third place however it would be another nine seasons before they would finish inside the top three again. The slump began in the 1957–58 season with the club finishing in the bottom two and therefore having to apply for re-election for the first time. During the next few years Rovers struggled on the pitch as well as off it with persistent financial difficulties blighting the club. This came to a head at the end of the 1961–62 season when the decision was made to cut the league from 12 clubs to 10. With Rovers having finished bottom for the last two seasons they, along with Transport, were dismissed from the league despite the club making an appeal to the FAI.
The absence would only last one year however, when the decision was made to bring the league's numbers back up to 12, Rovers were re-admitted along with Drogheda. The club's fortunes improved after their return and they had three consecutive top half finishes from 1965–67, a feat not matched until 2008 and they also reached an FAI Cup semi-final in 1966 but lost to Limerick after a replay. A significant achievement was made in 1968 when Rovers were able to take full ownership of the Showgrounds, which enabled them to begin work on improving facilities at the venue. One of the worst moments of the club's history occurred in 1969 when the club were beaten by non-league opposition in the FAI Cup for the first time as Longford Town won 2–0 in Longford. Rovers fared better in the cup the following year as they reached their first final in 30 years where they faced Bohs. After the first two games ended scoreless Bohs came out on top in the second replay winning 2–1 despite Johnny Cooke giving Rovers the lead. The following years saw Rovers struggle towards the bottom end of the table, and they had to apply for re-election on two occasions as financial constraints forced the club to adopt a part-time policy. Rovers reached their first League Cup final but lost 4–1 over two legs to Limerick.
1977–1985: Second league title and first FAI Cup
The 1976–77 season would be one of the most successful in the club's history as the club won its first league title for 40 years and its second ever. Manager Billy Sinclair assembled a talented squad with a mix of local and British talent that pipped Bohs to the title by a point with the title being clinched with a famous 3–1 victory over Shamrock Rovers at the Showgrounds on Easter Sunday. In the squad that year was goalkeeper Alan Paterson; defenders McManus, Sinclair, Fox (captain), Rutherford, Stenson; midfielders Fagan, Fielding, McGee, Betts, Ferry, Walker and forwards Leonard and Hulmes. The club also reached their second successive League Cup final but lost 1–0 to Shamrock Rovers. Sligo native Paul 'Ski' McGee played a big part in the title win and was transferred to English side QPR at the end of the season and would go on to have a successful time in England as well as earning 16 caps for the Ireland national side. The league win gave Rovers their first opportunity to play in Europe and they were drawn to play Red Star Belgrade of Yugoslavia in the first round of the European Cup. They would lose both legs 3–0.
The next season saw another cup run for Rovers as they reached the final of the FAI Cup again and this time Shamrock Rovers, managed by Irish football legend Johnny Giles, were their opponents. A controversial penalty scored by Ray Treacy gave the Dublin side a 1–0 win and prolonged Rovers search for their first FAI Cup. After one more season manager Billy Sinclair announced his departure and he would eventually be replaced by ex-Finn Harps manager Patsy McGowan who brought with him several players from the Donegal side. This included Brendan Bradley the league's all-time top scorer. In his second season at the club McGowan led Rovers to their fifth FAI Cup final where they this time met Dundalk. A 2–0 defeat left many wondering would Rovers ever get their hands on the famous trophy. At the end of the following season when Rovers finished in 5th position McGowan left to return to Finn Harps. He would be replaced by long-serving player Paul Fielding.
With financial difficulties persisting the club finished towards the bottom of the table however the 1983 season will always be remembered at the club for the FAI Cup run of that year. Rovers made their way to the semi-finals by beating Shamrock Rovers and were drawn to face junior side Cobh Ramblers in what looked to be a straightforward tie. However it took a late equaliser for Rovers to force the first game to a replay and in that Cobh came from two down to force a second replay back at Flower Lodge which saw another draw. Rovers eventually came out on top in the third replay, despite going two down, to book their place in the final. The tie earned Cobh the respect of Rovers and the Irish footballing public. A week later, on 24 April, Rovers were facing Bohs in the cup final at a rain-soaked Dalymount Park. Bohs took the lead in the first half and it was looking like Rovers would lose their sixth cup final. However an equaliser from Tony Stenson brought Rovers back into it and a lob by local winger Harry McLoughlin won it for Rovers. The final result of 2–1 meant that club captain and long-serving local hero Tony Fagan could finally get his hands on the FAI Cup for the club 50 years after the club first entered it. Huge celebrations were had in Sligo following the victory. The following season Rovers were in the Cup Winners' Cup but lost to Finnish side FC Haka 1–0 and 3–0.
1986–1993: Moving between divisions
For the 1985–86 season the league expanded to incorporate a First Division as well as the Premier. This meant the bottom four sides would be relegated. By this stage most of the Cup winning side had moved on and manager Paul Fielding had been replaced by Gerry Mitchell, with financial difficulties forcing the club into having a part-time squad. Despite Rovers coming from three down on the final day of the season to draw 3–3 with Drogheda it wasn't enough and Rovers were relegated on goal difference. Rovers bounced back the following year with Gerry Mitchell still in charge and much of the previous season's squad still there they finished runners-up behind Bray Wanderers which was enough to secure their way back to the Premier Division. At the end of this season, an Extraordinary General Meeting was held where the decision was made to structure the club as a co-op, and that structure is still in existence today. Back in the Premier, Rovers managed to stay up and also had a run to the semi-finals of the FAI Cup where they were defeated by Shamrock Rovers. The next season was a poor one with Rovers finishing bottom and never looking capable of survival which meant a return to First Division football for the 1988–89 season. Things were to get even worse the following year with David Pugh replacing Mitchell as manager and an all local policy the club finished bottom of the First Division in what is still their worst ever finish.
Things were to improve dramatically the following year under new manager Dermot Keely, who was able to bring in some experienced players from Dublin. A 1–1 draw with Kilkenny City on the final day was enough to secure promotion back to the top flight. Although beaten by Waterford United in a play-off for the title the club were back in the Premier Division for the 1990–91 season. After finishing in a respectable mid-table position upon their return Rovers were back fighting relegation the following year, although they did survive courtesy of loanee Colin Cameron's hat-trick on the final day of the season in Drogheda. Keely resigned after the first three games of the following season which led to Rovers appointing Willie McStay as manager but he couldn't keep them up and Rovers returned to the First Division for the 1993–94 season.
1994–2000: Treble win and European exploits
Despite this 1994 proved to be one of the most successful of the club's history under the popular Scot. The first trophy was won early in the season in the First Division Shield with Waterford United being beaten 2–1 over two legs. Another addition that year was the installation of floodlights at the historic Showgrounds. Rovers began with a 4–0 over Home Farm. With three games to spare, promotion was guaranteed with a 2–0 away win over Athlone Town, with the First Division title secured with a 1–0 home win over Bray Wanderers. The club's best day of the season was set up by Eddie Annand's winning goal in the FAI Cup semi-final over Limerick at the Showgrounds. The final against Premier Division Derry City was fixed for 15 May at Lansdowne Road on what proved to be another wet day. The game was won by Gerry Carr's header and captain Gavin Dykes lifted the trophy. McStay left at the end of the season to return to Celtic and he would be replaced by Wimbledon cup final hero Lawrie Sanchez but only after caretaker Chris Rutherford had guided Rovers to their first European win, beating Maltese side Floriana 3–2 on aggregate in the Cup Winners' cup. Padraig Moran, one of the club's all-time leading goalscorers, scored Rovers' first European goal. The next round pitted Rovers against big name opposition in the shape of Belgian side Club Brugge. Despite Johnny Kenny's goal in the first leg Rovers lost 2–1 at the Showgrounds and then 3–1 in the return leg.
At one stage of the 1994–95 season, Rovers were contending for the title but a bad run at the end of the season, largely due to a backlog of fixtures, meant they eventually finished 8th. Rovers put up a good defence of the cup but Shelbourne's 3–1 win at the Showgrounds ended their hopes. Sanchez would leave the club at the end of the season to return to England but his replacement and former Wimbledon team-mate Steve Cotterill continued the success of recent seasons. He guided them to their first League cup final since 1977. Despite a 1–0 home win in the first leg of the final and going one up in the second opponents Shelbourne fought back and a last minute equaliser forced a penalty shoot-out which Shelbourne were to win. Another run in the cup was also enjoyed but Shelbourne were to prove Rovers nemesis again, beating Rovers at the Showgrounds 1–0. A strong league campaign ended with Rovers finishing in third, their highest position since the league winning year of 1977, and that qualified Rovers for the Intertoto Cup. Rovers did well in Europe again recording draws at home to Nantes and Heerenveen but away defeats of Lillestrøm and Kaunas meant Rovers failed to progress beyond the group stages.
Shortly after, Cotterill departed the club and was replaced by former Burnley manager Jimmy Mullen who, despite guiding Rovers to a mid-table finish, left Rovers at the end of the year. His replacement was player-manager Nicky Reid, a former Man City defender. Rovers gained revenge for their defeat to Shelbourne in the League Cup two years earlier by beating them in the final for Rovers' first win in the competition. The next season was not as successful with Rovers needing a fantastic run at the end of the season to stay up by a single point. With Reid now replaced by Scot Jim McInally the trick could not be repeated the next year and the club lost their Premier division status finishing second from bottom but eight points from safety.
2000–2005: Dark days in the First Division
Rovers began life in the First Division under former Northern Ireland manager Tommy Cassidy who had come to the club before relegation but too late to save the club. The club maintained its full-time policy in the First Division in a bid to go straight back up but despite challenging up until the final day of the season they missed out on a play-off spot by two points. This resulted in the departure of Cassidy who was replaced by former Torquay United and Galway United manager Don O'Riordan who due to financial constraints was forced to blood several local youngsters. One of these was Keith Gilroy who was transferred to Middlesbrough. Results were poor however under O'Riordan with the side finishing in 6th place for three successive years without challenging for promotion. During this period the league made the switch to summer soccer, but for Rovers it proved to be one of the darkest periods in its history. With the club again not challenging for promotion in O'Riordan's fourth year he was eventually sacked and replaced towards the end of that year by untried Northern Irishman Sean Connor. He quickly set about building a much stronger squad from all parts of the world and the club found themselves towards the top of the league throughout the 2005 season with promotion being clinched with a scoreless home draw with Athlone Town on 12 November to end the years of misery in the division often referred to as the graveyard.
2006–2011: Return to the Premier Division and cup successes
Connor continued to inspire Rovers to success on their return to the Premier Division and they finished fifth that year. The club also enjoyed its first significant cup run in a decade and faced Derry City in a home semi-final which finished all square in front of one of the biggest crowds the Showgrounds had seen for a long time. The replay would prove to be a disaster, however, with Rovers losing 5–0 on 31 October 2006 in the Brandywell. Shortly after Connor stunned the club by announcing his departure to join Bohs before the season had even ended. His departure left a lot of resentment towards him in Sligo which remains to this day. His replacement, Rob McDonald, a former PSV Eindhoven player would only last one game in charge, that being the final game of the 2006 season. He was sacked only a couple of weeks before the new season was to begin which left Rovers in the temporary control of caretakers Leo Tierney and Dessie Cawley as the new season began until a new man could be appointed.
That man was former Coventry City and Wigan Athletic scouser Paul Cook. He immediately got the team playing an attractive brand of passing football and despite all the turmoil steered the side to a respectable 6th place in the 12 team league. The club would build on this the following year by finishing in fourth position and thereby qualifying Rovers for Europe for the first time in 12 years. At the end of that season Rovers sold right-back Seamus Coleman to English Premiership side Everton for £60,000. Coleman made his debut under Sean Connor and the Killybegs man quickly established himself as one of the most exciting players in the league thanks to his quality dribbling skills up the right wing. Coleman has since established himself as a regular in the first-team at Everton. He has gone on to win caps for the Ireland national team and was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the year in 2011. The European campaign proved to be a disappointment, however, with Rovers going out to Albanian side KS Vllaznia Shkodër 3–2 on aggregate in their first game. Despite the club failing to compete as high up the league as the previous year, eventually finishing 6th, the club performed much better in the cup and knocked out Derry City, Cork City and Bohs before then beating Waterford 1–0 in the semi final at the Showgrounds to book their place in the first FAI Cup final for 15 years courtesy of Matthew Blinkhorn's header. The final was played at Tallaght Stadium against big spending new First Division side Sporting Fingal and despite Eoin Doyle giving Rovers the lead early in the second half, Fingal came back with two late goals.
The following season would see Rovers go on to surpass its recent success. Rovers picked up their first piece of silverware by winning the EA Sports Cup with a 1–0 win over surprise finalists Monaghan United. Matthew Blinkhorn scored the winning goal. The goalscoring feats of Pádraig Amond resulted in his sale to Portuguese side Paços de Ferreira during the season. The club also performed well in the league with a run during the second half of the season enough to leave them in third place, their joint highest since winning it in 1977, only four points from being champions. This also guaranteed a return to European football for the next year. The highlight of the year however would be in the final game of the season, the 2010 FAI Cup Final.
On 14 November 2010, the FAI Cup Final took place in the new Aviva Stadium. Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers drew 0–0 before Sligo won on penalties. The Sligo second choice keeper, Ciarán Kelly, saved four penalties in the shootout. Joseph Ndo won the Man of the Match.
The 2011 season was also a huge success for the club. Paul Cook guided Rovers to second place in the Airtricity League, with a record number of points and record number of goals scored. 15 of these came in two games against Galway United, 8–0 away and 7–1 at home. Despite the club going out of the Europa League to Ukrainians Vorskla Poltava, Rovers reached the semi finals of the EA Sports Cup, and made it to the final of the FAI Ford Cup for a third successive season, this time against Shelbourne. Paul Cook's efforts saw him linked to the vacant position at SPL side St Johnstone, but failed to agree terms with them. After John Coleman was appointed Rochdale manager, Accrington Stanley were granted permission to speak to Cook but talks broke down. However, 2 days later Rovers and Accrington agreed compensation for Cook and on 13 February 2012 Cook was appointed manager two weeks before the Airtricity League began.
2012–2013: A third league title and more cup success
On 27 February 2012, former Scunthorpe United boss Ian Baraclough was named Rovers new manager, describing the offer as a "fantastic opportunity and I am very thankful for the offer". In his first game as manager, Rovers drew 1–1 with Shelbourne at Tolka Park. Jason McGuinness rescued a point for Baraclough's side in the last minute. In the following game, he won his first game as manager against Glentoran 2–0 in the Setanta Cup thanks to goals from Romauld Boco and Mark Quigley.
Rovers beat reigning champions Shamrock Rovers 3–0 in the Showgrounds on 13 May 2012 to open up an 8-point gap between themselves and 3rd placed Shamrock Rovers and a 6-point gap over second-placed St. Pats. This meant Rovers were unbeaten in the first third of the season along with 2nd placed St. Patrick's Athletic — the first time two sides have achieved this in the same season since the 1980–81 season.
Rovers came unstuck in their Europa League adventure, against Slovaks FC Spartak Trnava losing 3–1 in Slovakia in the first leg, but recovered and obtained a creditable 1–1 draw in the second leg. However Rovers loosened their grip on the FAI Cup losing 3–1 at home to Monaghan United F.C. who later resigned from the league. Another setback occurred during the Spartak Trnava tie when top-scorer Danny North's injury meant he would miss the remainder of the season. However other players particularly Mark Quigley took on the goalscoring responsibilities and Rovers also remained solid defensively. During this period Rovers thrashed rivals Drogheda United 4–1 at the Showgrounds and drew away to the other chasers St. Patrick's Athletic and Shamrock Rovers.
The unbeaten league run meant Rovers could win the title with two games to spare if they beat second placed St. Patrick's Athletic at the Showgrounds. The game became like a cup final with extra seating installed to meet demand and it looked good when Rovers went 2–0 ahead by the middle of the first half. St. Pats needed a win to keep their own aspirations alive and after a half time reshuffle they soon levelled the game at 2–2 with most of the second half remaining. Rovers were still determined to clinch the title that day and pressed on after this eventually winning a late penalty that Mark Quigley converted followed minutes later by the final whistle and celebrations as the ecstatic supporters rushed onto the pitch. Sligo Rovers had won their third league title.
Despite being champions Rovers lost two of their big names, Mark Quigley and Jason McGuinness to Shamrock Rovers before the start of the 2013 season, bringing in Bohemians defender Evan McMillan and re-signing Aaron Greene as replacements. Recruits from the UK were also brought in such as wide midfielder Kieran Djilali and much traveled center-forward Anthony Elding who made a prolific start to his Rovers career as the defending champions won their opening eight games. After that run was ended a spell of games shortly after saw Elding and Rovers struggle to score and slip away from the top of the table. With the Champions League tie looming Baraclough signed striker David McMillan from UCD to try and bolster the attack but he failed to make an impact and struggled to get a game after Danny North's return from injury.
The Bit O'Red's Champions League tie was against strong Norwegian champions Molde FK. Sligo narrowly lost the home leg giving Molde the edge they never let slip. After this Rovers tried to resurrect their title bid but defeats against surprise contenders Dundalk and home draws meant that in almost a mirror image of the previous season St. Patrick's Athletic won the title after beating Sligo with 2 games to spare.
This season however saw Sligo resurrect their FAI cup form and they followed up an away win at Waterford United with 1–0 victories over Cork City and Derry City. The semi final against Shamrock Rovers saw the highlight of the season so far as Sligo Rovers comfortably won 3–0. Rovers would face Drogheda United who had knocked them out of the Setanta Cup and a sluggish first half saw the Louth men go a goal up. With fifteen minutes to go they still trailed but suddenly the whole game came to life as substitute Danny North equalized and a few minutes later gave Sligo the lead with a goal from a clever but controversial free kick routine. The protests over the goal led to a Drogheda player getting sent off but Sligo were also reduced to ten men as Gavin Peers was forced off with injury after all the substitutions had been made. Drogheda took advantage of this to equalize and another Sligo Rovers cup final looked on its way to extra time. However, with injury time running out Danny North turned provider setting up Anthony Elding for a great finish and a third FAI Cup for Sligo Rovers in four seasons.
2014–present: End of glory days and survival battles
The 2014 season started badly when, after a narrow opening day win, Rovers lost four in a row. A pick up in form saw them beat Dundalk in the final Setanta Cup final but the same opposition soon thrashed Rovers 3–0 twice in two weeks including the FAI cup. Further poor league results led to the decision to sack Ian Baraclough. Sligo Rovers quickly found a replacement from North West England in John Coleman and he oversaw Sligo’s second European success when they defeated FK Banga of Lithuania 4–0. This was twenty years after their first success and Sligo followed this with a shock 2–1 away first-leg win at Rosenborg. They then took the lead in the second leg but Rosenborg, who had changed managers after the first leg, bounced back to win 3–1. After the European adventure ended, the downward spiral continued with players including Joseph N'Do being let go to reduce the wage bill. Come September, Coleman also left to manage Accrington Stanley leaving Gavin Dykes as caretaker where he only managed four points in their last eight games. However, before the season's end, the club had arranged for Owen Heary of Bohemians to become manager for 2015.
Owen Heary bolstered the squad with promising former Bohs players but they struggled only getting 2 victories in 13 games. Heary was dismissed but only after a period in limbo where the club were hoping he’d just resign. He was replaced initially by Joseph N'Do but after he lost at bottom club Limerick F.C. they hired a former English Premier league manager Micky Adams who kept them safe with a victory in the penultimate game at St. Patrick's Athletic.
With Micky Adams not staying on, the 2016 season saw Rovers hire former Peterborough Utd manager Dave Robertson. His first season veered between surprise wins at Cork City and champions Dundalk to bad defeats against Bray and a FAI cup exit at struggling Wexford Youths, where Rovers had won 5–0 two weeks prior. Still this season was the more encouraging of this period and a top half finish saw them become one of the first League of Ireland clubs invited to take part in the Scottish League Challenge cup. A bad opening day defeat in the 2017 season and resultant poor form led to Robertson’s sacking. Three sides would be automatically relegated as the Premier Division was being reduced to ten teams and this hastened the dismissal. Irish League manager Gerard Lyttle was hired but struggled to move the club out of the relegation zone. The turning point came in a televised August success at runaway leaders Cork City with more victories following, though safety was only assured on the final day of the season.
Much of the 2018 season yet again saw Sligo Rovers flirting with relegation assisted by poor home form as any stand out victories came away from home. When safety was assured, with two weekends to spare, the club still decided to dismiss Gerard Lyttle and waited for the season's end to confirm that Liam Buckley would take charge after his departure from St. Patrick's Athletic. Sligo finished the 2019 campaign in seventh place, comfortably above the relegation places. Rovers also reached the semi-finals of the FAI Cup, losing to Dundalk at the Showgrounds. Sligo finished the 2020 league season in fourth position, securing qualification for the inaugural UEFA Conference League.
Since its foundation, the club has had a small but loyal following in Sligo town, where it has been an outpost for football since its inception into the League of Ireland. Sligo Rovers currently averages gates of around 2,000. The average attendance for 2012 season was 3,007. Sligo Rovers has many supporters clubs which work on raising funds for the club, particularly the Bit O'Red Supporters Trust which has recently tried to launch some innovative fundraisers to help the club in the long term .
The Dublin Supporters Club (DSC) is another prominent supporters club, as are the South Sligo Supporters Club and the North Sligo Supporters Club, both of which take part in fundraising work within their catchment areas and regularly organise buses to Rovers games both home and away. The most noticeable supporters group at Sligo Rovers on match days due to their visual and vocal support for Sligo Rovers is the independently formed supporters group Forza Rovers (FR08), a group of fans inspired by the ultras movement which is prominent throughout Europe. However, they have received plaudits from players and supporters for the colourful and passionate displays its members have produced since the group was formed in 2008. The group has also been involved in small fundraisers for club but the group's main goal is to support the club with vocal and visual support on match days. Some of the choreographed displays by the group have involved all stands in the Showgrounds and have been described as "extraordinary" and made the Showgrounds "feel like a 50,000 capacity as the teams walked out to massive noise". Sligo Rovers is the subject of a popular memoir, There's Only One Red Army by journalist and novelist Eamonn Sweeney, published in 1997.
- League of Ireland/Premier Division: 3
- FAI Cup: 5
- League of Ireland Cup: 2
- 1997–98, 2010
- Dublin City Cup: 1
- Setanta Sports Cup: 1
- League of Ireland First Division: 2
- League of Ireland First Division Shield: 1
- Leinster Senior League: 1
- FAI Intermediate Cup: 1
- FAI Junior Cup: 1
- Connacht Senior League
- Winners: 1981–82, 1991–92, 1993–94: 3
- Runners Up: 1982–83, 1990–91, 1992–93: 3
- Connacht Senior Cup
- Winners: 1981–82: 1
- Connacht Senior League Challenge Cup
- Winners: 1990–91, 1993–94: 2
- Connacht Junior Cup
- Winners: 1929–30: 1
|European Cup / Champions League||
|UEFA Europa League||
|UEFA Europa Conference League||
|European Cup Winners' Cup||
|UEFA Intertoto Cup||
|1977–78||European Cup||1R||Red Star||0–3||0–3||0–6|
|1983–84||UEFA Cup Winners' Cup||1R||Haka||0–1||0–3||0–4|
|1994–95||UEFA Cup Winners' Cup||QR||Floriana||1–0||2–2||3–2|
|1996||UEFA Intertoto Cup||Group 5||Heerenveen||0–0||—||5th|
|2009–10||UEFA Europa League||1Q||Vllaznia||1–2||1–1||2–3|
|2011–12||UEFA Europa League||3Q||Vorskla Poltava||0–2||0–0||0–2|
|2012–13||UEFA Europa League||2Q||Spartak Trnava||1–1||1–3||2–4|
|2013–14||UEFA Champions League||2Q||Molde||0–1||0–2||0–3|
|2014–15||UEFA Europa League||1Q||Banga Gargždai||4–0||0–0||4–0|
|2021–22||UEFA Europa Conference League||1Q||FH||1–2||0–1||1–3|
|2022–23||UEFA Europa Conference League||1Q||Bala Town|
- 1R: First round
- QR: Qualifying round
- 1Q: First qualifying round
- 2Q: Second qualifying round
- 3Q: Third qualifying round
Records and statistics
Most overall appearances
|Ranking||Nationality||Name||Years||Total Appearances (league only)|
|1||Ireland||Tony Fagan||1967–1987||590 (431)|
|2||England||Tony Stenson||1968–1984||387 (290)|
|3||Ireland||Raffaele Cretaro||2000–2005, 2007–2009, 2011–2020||381 (311)|
|4||Scotland||Johnny Armstrong||1951–1964||380 (228)|
|5||Ireland||Gavin Dykes||1987–1996||323 (255)|
|6||Ireland||Harry McLoughlin||1977–1989||315 (275)|
|7||Ireland||David Pugh||1963–1967, 1969–1978||308 (236)|
|8||Ireland||Martin McDonnell||1979–1984, 1990–1997||284 (214)|
|9||England||Chris Rutherford||1975–1985||281 (222)|
|10||Ireland||Conor O'Grady||1998–2001, 2005–2010||281 (239)|
All-time top scorers
|3||Ireland||Raffaele Cretaro||2001–2005, 2007–2009, 2011–2020||82|
|4||Ireland||Paul McGee||1971–1972, 1976–1978, 1984, 1991–1993||65|
|5||Northern Ireland||Gerry McDaid||1935–1936||64|
|6||Ireland||Paul McTiernan||2002–2006, 2008–2009||62|
|9||England||Gary Hulmes||1977–1979, 1980, 1987||53|
Top scorers in history
|3||Ireland||Paul McTiernan||2002–2006, 2008–2009||50|
|4||England||Gary Hulmes||1977–1979, 1980, 1987||50|
|5||Ireland||Paul McGee||1971–1972, 1976–1978, 1984, 1991–1993||50|
|6||Ireland||Raffaele Cretaro||2001–2005, 2007–2009, 2011–2020||50|
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
|Assistant Manager||Ryan Casey|
|Head of Academy||Conor O'Grady|
|Opposition analyst and scout||Dave Campbell|
|Strength and conditioning coach||Mark Howley|
|Kit manager||Darragh Healy|
|Under-19s Manager||Declan Boyle|
|Under-19s Coach||Barry Mullen|
|Under-19s Strength and conditioning coach||Ross Chrystal|
|Under-17s Manager||Darragh O’Reilly|
|Under-15s Manager||Paul Masterson|
|Under-15s Coach||Kevin McCarthy|
|Under-14s Manager||Alan Farry|
|Under-14s Coach||Daryl Keaney|
- 2018 Liam Buckley
Liam Buckley was appointed manager on 26 October 2018. The club finished seventh during his first season in charge. Buckley guided the team to a fourth-place finish in 2020, securing European football for the following season. Buckley went one better in the 2021 season, finishing in third place and again securing European football.
- 2017 Gerard Lyttle
Managerial post ran from 21 April 2017 – 16 October 2018.
- 2015 Dave Robertson
Managerial post ran from 19 November 2015 – 5 April 2017.
- 2015 Micky Adams
Managerial post ran from 4 August 2015 – 2 November 2015.
- 2015 Joseph N'Do & Gavin Dykes (Caretakers)
Caretaker posts ran from 26 June 2015 – 4 August 2015.
- 2014 Owen Heary
Managerial post ran from 26 October 2014 – 26 June 2015.
- 2014 Gavin Dykes (Caretaker)
Caretaker post ran from 18 September 2014 – 26 October 2014.
- 2014 John Coleman
Managerial post ran from 21 June 2014 – 18 September 2014.
John Coleman and his assistant Jimmy Bell joined Sligo Rovers in June 2014, tasked with getting Rovers back into the Europa League for 2015. Ultimate Coleman failed in his goals, although Rovers did get through a round against FK Banga Gargždai. Rovers went on to Beat Rosenborg BK away, but lost the home leg and were eliminated. John and Jimmy left for Accrington Stanley F.C. in September but are returning for a friendly against Sligo Rovers.
- 2012 Ian Baraclough
Managerial post ran from 27 February 2012 – 19 June 2014.
Former Scunthorpe United boss Baraclough succeeded Cook after he left for Accrington Stanley. He became boss 5 days before the 2012 Airtricity League began. The job is the 41 year old's first since being sacked by "The Iron" in March 2011. Guided Sligo to their first league title since 1977, in 2012.
- 2007 Paul Cook
Managerial post ran from 27 April 2007 – 13 February 2012.
Liverpool born Cook is a former professional footballer whose clubs included Burnley and Coventry City. He previously managed Southport, becoming their first full-time manager since 1978. Prior to this Cook was a first-team coach with Accrington Stanley In the 2010 season Cook led the club to its most successful season ever winning the FAI Ford Cup and the EA Sports Cup and finishing 3rd in the Airtricity League. In 2011 he achieved back-to-back FAI Ford Cup victories, beating Shelbourne in the final on penalties. Cook left for Accrington on 13 February 2012 two weeks before the new season.
- 2006 Rob McDonald
Managerial post ran from 14 November 2006 – 6 March 2007.
- 2004 Sean Connor Resigned 2 November 2006.
Belfast native succeeded in getting the team promoted to the Premier Division in 2005 but left in controversial circumstances with only a few games left in the 2006 season.
- 2001 Don O'Riordan
Dubliner O’Riordan came to the club after a successful period with Galway United. However, with Rovers he failed to build a side capable of challenging for promotion although he did lay the groundwork for the club's highly successful Youth policy and he gave a number of locals their Senior debuts in the eircom League.
O’Riordan and Sligo Rovers parted ways in the summer of 2004.
- 1999 Tommy Cassidy
Cassidy, who had previously managed in Cyprus and Northern Ireland, could do little to reverse the slide in Rovers’ fortunes following the departure of previous manager Jim McInally and they were relegated from the Premier Division.
Cassidy came close to getting Rovers back up as they were in contention right up until the final day of the 2000–01 season when they lost 4–1 to Home Farm Everton.
- 1999 Jim McInally
McInally came to the Showgrounds at the start of the 1999–00 season but early results didn’t go his way and he left the club due to personal reasons.
- 1997 Nicky Reid
Reid was one of Jimmy Mullen's last signings and the former Manchester City player was asked to take charge. In his first season as player-manager, he took the club on its longest ever unbeaten run – which saw them claim the League Cup in February 1998, beating Shelbourne over two legs in the final (Reid also captained the side). His second season didn’t go as well and the club just escaped relegation from the top flight on the final day thanks to a 2–0 win against Derry City. Reid was then released from his contract and he returned to England, where he went back to university to study for a degree in Sports Rehabilitation.
- 1996 Jimmy Mullen
Mullen came to the club after a good spell with Burnley but his reign at the Showgrounds was short-lived and he left the club due to family reasons in July 1997.
- 1995 Steve Cotterill
Before Lawrie Sanchez left in 1995, he recommended that Sligo appoint Cotterill and that proved to be a wise decision as he led the club to third place in the Premier Division of the National League and his side also reached the League Cup final (Rovers were beaten on penalties by Shelbourne). Cotterill was then offered the position of manager of Cheltenham Town, who he brought from non-League football into the Football League winning the FA Trophy along the way.
- 1994 Lawrie Sanchez
Prior to his appointment with Rovers, Sanchez was best known for scoring the winning goal for Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup Final against Liverpool. Sanchez built on the good work done by McStay with his professionalism rubbing off on everyone at the Showgrounds. He led the club to semi-final of the FAI Cup where they were beaten by Shelbourne.
- 1992 Willie McStay
In two years McStay lead Rovers to an historic treble, when they won the 1993–94 First Division, First Division Shield and the FAI Cup. In 1994, the Scot left Rovers just before the start of the new season after being approached by Celtic, his former club as a player.
- 1989 Dermot Keely
Keely guided Sligo to their highest finish in a decade in the Premier Division with a fifth-place finish in 1990–91.
- 1988 David Pugh
- 1986 Gerry Mitchell
- 1982 Paul Fielding
- 1979 Patsy McGowan
- 1979 Ian McKechnie
- 1974 Billy Sinclair
- 1973 Len Vallard
- 1972 Jim McDonnell
- 1971 David Pugh and Gerry Mitchell
- 1968 Ken Turner
- 1967 Ken Bartley
- 1966 Shay Keogh
- 1963 Johnny Robinsonl
- 1961 Peter Farrell
- 1960 Alex Rollo
- 1959 Seán Thomas
- 1955 Tommy McLead
- 1955 Hugh Colvin
- 1953 Jimmy Batten
- 1953 Jock McCosh and Charlie Howley
- 1953 John Black
- 1951 Jock Shearer
- 1951 Dick Groves
- 1950 Bob Mooney
- 1950 Tommy Wright
- 1949 Alan Fletcher
- 1948 Sam Waters
- 1937 Billy Miller
- 1937 Bob McAuley
- 1936 Jimmy Surgeoner
- 1935 James McCann
- 1934 Bob Preston
Sligo Rovers have played their entire history at the Showgrounds, located in the Maugheraboy area of Sligo town. They are one of very few League of Ireland clubs never to have changed grounds. The Showgrounds takes its name from the annual show held at the grounds by the County Sligo Agricultural Society. It is owned by the people of Sligo and cannot be sold for use for any purpose other than sport and leisure. It is one of the oldest grounds in the country but it has seen a lot of development in recent years thanks to the hard work of several volunteers.
Treacy Avenue Stand
Also known as the main stand this is the largest stand in the ground with 1,800 seats and also contains the dressing rooms, dugouts and press box. It was built in 2001 replacing a much older stand.
Jinks Avenue Stand
This is located opposite the Treacy Avenue stand has about 800 seats which were installed in the late nineties. Half of the stand is reserved for away support, while the other half contains Sligo Rovers' most vocal support known as Forza Rovers. They are renowned for their colourful and humorous displays. This stand recently also contains a TV gantry.
In July 2012 a new stand was completed at the Railway End consisting of 1,300 seats. This stand is now known as the Volkswagen Stand as the project was funded by Volkswagen Bank.
This end gets its name from the shed it used to have where Sligo Rovers' most vocal supporters would congregate until it had to be demolished for health and safety reasons. There is currently no structure at this end of the ground.
Notable former players
- Sligo @ Extratime.ie Archived 14 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- McCrae's Battalion by Jack Alexander, 2003
- "Premier Division". Soccerway. DAZN Group. Archived from the original on 28 February 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- "Kelly spot on as Sligo take cup". The Irish Times. 15 November 2010. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
- "Kelly's heroics ensure Sligo win battle of Rovers". Irish Examiner. 15 November 2010. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
- Sneyd, David (22 March 2020). "Surfing in Strandhill, selling Hugo Boss and Joey Ndo's smile – How Sligo Rovers became champions in 2012". The42. TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
- "Aaron Greene discusses not wanting to leave Sligo Rovers during 2014". Irish Daily Mirror. 24 April 2015. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
- "Owen Heary discusses dismissal on live TV". Irish Independent. 27 June 2015. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- "Sligo Rovers part company with manager Dave Robertson". The Irish Times. 5 April 2017. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
- "Liam Buckley appointed Sligo Rovers manager". rte.ie. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
- "FAI Cup Report: Sligo Rovers 0 - 1 Dundalk". extratime.com. 29 September 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
- "Rovers win to finish fourth in table – Sligo Rovers". Retrieved 17 September 2021.
- "Forza Rovers". Forza Rovers. Archived from the original on 26 August 2009.[dead link]
- "A quick sweep with Dick Brush, Interview with Extratime.ie". Extratime.ie. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- "Red Army out in force at Tallaght". Irish Independent. 13 May 2013. Archived from the original on 6 November 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- "Liam Buckley appointed Sligo Rovers manager". RTÉ Sport. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
- "Rovers win to finish fourth in table". Sligo Rovers F.C. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
- "VW Bank End tickets set to go on sale". Sligo Rovers F.C. 10 July 2012. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2020.