Updated: 22/12/16 : 04:53:50
Printable Version   Bookmark and Share Share This


Spadework uncovers 88 years of Sligo Rovers

By Eugene McGloin

A PRIEST -- who should know about these things -- said there are (just) three things in Life.

Sligo Rovers, Manchester United, 'The Church.'  My friend recalls, clearly, them being recited to him in that order, too!

His speaker didn't specify which 'church' but yet we can be reasonably certain on that one.

Equal certainty also attaches to the notion that the other two institutions, Rovers and United, qualify as religions in these parts.

Aidan Mannion is editor of nearly 600 pages which make up the definitive published history of Sligo Rovers, just released.

He has 'good form;' the Record Room proprietor both saw the talent and potential in Dervish, Indian and IOU -- later Westlife -- long before anyone else.

But he is not alone, as Joe Malloy and Anthony Kilfeather get equal billing on the author's page inside.

Divine Messages

Only by 'cheating' have I read through the new book; usually NEVER open birthday or Christmas presents until the Big Day. 

But this gift -- from the same friend who 'received' the three divine messages, above -- was duly opened and read. Then, it was read some more.

''The Bit o' Red - History of Sligo Rovers 1928-2016'' is a whopping book to physically handle. It is challenging even in that respect.

But it is printed in gloss which guarantees a good life even with lots of (awkward) handling.

The covers, back and front, are a montage which captures (some of) those who have graced 'Bit o' Red battlefields, both on and off the playing pitch. 

Maybe there could have a greater representation of women on that front cover?

However, the legendary Nancy Rooney does get a whole page inside.

Short Pants

Spouses and parents in Sligo who haven't already been on the trail chasing the new book will miss out on a must-have present this Christmas season.

Football-wise, every season from 1928 onwards is there -- 88 years to be covered as journalist Michael Moran noted in his foreword.

That year of 1928, Fianna Fáil was still in short pants, politically, and had never even been in government. 

The first Eucharistic Congress of the Catholic Church to come to Ireland was still four years away.

'The Religion'

It was against such tumultuous times that 'the religion' of Sligo Rovers kicked off.

A single review could not do justice to the work of the various members of the Sligo Rovers Heritage Group involved in this project. It is a massive achievement.

But those behind the book now have all the 'spadework' done for the countdown to the centenary of the club, which is just over a decade away. 

Michael Moran, again, captures that aspect nicely - ''To be continued'' he warns the reader starting into the 600 pages of history.

Batman, Bond

My favourite Rovers football season in the Showgrounds was 1966 and into 1967.

Johnny Brooks was my idea of Batman and James Bond combined but maybe better than both because he wore football boots.

The book does not disappoint, with league tables and  photos from those seasons which ended, literally, in a riot.

The kingpin of Irish football and the bete noire of Sligo Rovers back in that era was.....Dundalk.

Music fans will also recall 1967 as the year of The Beatles splendid ''Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'' and its globally famed cover of montages.

Meanwhile, back to the book: Apart from the writing and publication, the scale of research involved was probably its most onerous task(s).

That research stands out at its best right in the section which offers thumbnail sketches of every player in a Sligo Rovers jersey for the past 88 years -- every McGuinness, every Sweeney etc.

The project benefits hugely, too, from the involvement of several professional journalists who covered the game for decades, such as long-time sports editor Leo Gray, now retired.

In summary, the book is a super companion volume for the 2015 history of the Showgrounds itself by Kevin Colreavy.