Season Preview: Opening day form
Rovers will be looking to maintain a good recent record on opening days of the season on Saturday when taking on Cork City in the first game of 2015.
This will be the tenth consecutive year Rovers have played in the top flight and of the nine games previously played five have been won with three draws. Here we take a look back on those five wins:
2006: Sligo Rovers 1 Bohemians 0
Although originally due to play Longford Town away on the night of Rovers return to the Premier Division the cancellation of that game led to the Bit o’Red starting the campaign with a home game against Gareth Farrelly’s Bohs. Rovers gave debuts to Gavin Peers and Keith Foy in the full-back positions, Adam Hughes and Chris Turner in mid-field with Jamie McKenzie and Darren Mansaram playing for the first time off the bench.
It was two debutants who combined on the stroke of half-time when Keith Foy’s dangerous free-kick was flicked into the net by Aussie Adam Hughes. In injury time Rovers keeper John O’Hara made a spectacular save to keep out a head from current Ireland international Stephen Ward. Sean Connor’s team went on to enjoy a successful return to the top flight finishing the season in 5th.
2007: Galway United 0 Sligo Rovers 2
Despite a tumultuous time off the pitch during the off season with new manager Rob McDonald departing just before the season started leaving Dessie Cawley and Leo Tierney in charge. Galway had just been promoted back up the Premier Division. But against all odds Rovers came away with the win. There was no debutants in the side but there was Raffaele Cretaro who had just returned from a year with the Tribesmen.
And it was Cretaro who proved to be a thorn in his old team’s side playing a role in both goals. His first assist led to the opener being scored by a fellow Tubbercurry man Gary Curran on 52 minutes. And again Cretaro was provider on 69 for another local in the side Jason McCartney to get the second. The following month Paul Cook took over and led the team to a sixth place finish.
2011: Derry City 0 Sligo Rovers 1
The 2011 season began with Rovers having won both cups the previous season facing a Derry City side who had just returned from a season in the First Division. There was a crowd of over 4,000 in the Brandywell as keeper Brandan Clarke and Jason McGuinness made Bit o’Red debuts. Alan Kirby and Aaron Greene also made first appearances off the bench.
It was to be winger Greene, signed from Bohemians,that proved to be the match-winner. Rovers twice hit the post and Eamon Zayed had a penalty saved by Brendan Clarke leaving the game seemingly destined for a draw. But as in 2007 Raff Cretaro was back from a season away from the Showgrounds and his introduction off the bench proved critical. He crossed from the right wing on 88 minutes for Greene to tap in. The Bit o’Red retained the FAI Cup crown that season and finished as league runners-up.
2013: Derry City 0 Sligo Rovers 1
Sligo Rovers defence of the league title won in 2012 began with a sense of déjà vu on the road to the Candystripes again. Evan McMillan and Anthony Elding were making their league debuts having already played a Setanta Sports Cup tie the week before but Kieran Djilali was making his bow in a Rovers shirt when he came on as a sub in the second half.
The Bit o’Red didn’t have as long to wait for a goal this time however. When it came on 31 minutes it was Raff Cretaro who again came up with something on the opening day of the season when he crossed for a goal for Elding on his league debut. Derry came back in the second half but no way through the Rovers defence could be found. Another successful season followed as Rovers won the FAI Cup again at the end of the year.
2014: Sligo Rovers 2 Athlone Town 1
Rovers began last year at home for the first time since a 2010 draw with Shamrock Rovers with newly promoted Athlone the opponents. League debuts were made by Danny Ledwith, Eric Odhiambo, Kalen Spillane, Sean Maguire and Paul O’Conor while John Russell began his second spell at the Showgrounds.
Athlone proved difficult opposition and took the lead early in the second half when Phillip Gorman scored a penalty. Rovers’ response came 10 minutes after when David Cawley’s great ball into the box was headed in by John Russell. The winning goal eventually came with three minutes left after the introduction of Evan McMillan. Russell was the provider this time with his low ball swept in by McMillan.
The Bit o’Red will look for another opening win against Cork City, a team who previously came to the Showgrounds on the opening night of the 2009 season. That game ended in a share of the spoils at 1-1 thanks to a Stephen Parkhouse getting a last-minute leveller on his Rovers debut.
It's Sligo Rovers vs Cork City this Saturday in the Showgrounds at 7:45pm, tickets will be available at the gate.
New manager Owen Heary