Hulmes ready for the game that matters most
Gary Hulmes was a goalscoring legend for Sligo Rovers and Limerick, winning league titles with both clubs, so he has double reason to be excited about this Saturday’s season’s opener at The Showgrounds.
He says: “I don’t get to a lot of games these days, but this is a fixture that always excites me. I travelled to Limerick for the opening game last season and unfortunately it went all wrong for Rovers. I don’t see that happening this time, however.
“I love both clubs and I always want them to do well. I’m confident that neither will be even thinking about relegation this term, but rather about getting back among the honours.
“I’ve been impressed with Gerard Lyttle’s pre-season signings. They’re young ambitious lads, which reminds me a lot of the team Billy Sinclair assembled to win the League in 1977, one of the greatest moments of my life.
“I tend to sit on the fence for this fixture, but with Rovers at home and it being their historic 3,000tth competitive game, I’m wearing a red and white scarf this week.”
Former Rovers and Limerick star, Gary Hulmes, is literally sitting on the fence at the Showgrounds. But he'll be cheering on the #bitored night.
Interestingly, as a player who came to Sligo having been released by Rochdale and who had never heard of the club beforehand, Gary points to a lot of similarities between Billy Sinclair’s title winners and the present squad being put together by Gerard Lyttle.
“Billy put the squad together with a lot of young lads from England blending with experienced local players. A lot of us were mere teenagers, and there was nobody older than their mid-20’s, yet we were good enough to win the league.
“I can see the present manager working along similar lines. The young lads who have come in will quickly find their feet and the more experienced players will supply the leadership. It’s precisely the combination which worked so well for us back then and hopefully it can be a successful recipe again,” he maintains.
A Manchester native, Hulmes was part of the Sinclair revolution at the Showgrounds in the late 70’s, scoring 13 goals in the league winning season and narrowly missing out on an FAI Cup medal the following year, when a controversial penalty clinched the trophy for Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park.
In all, the flying forward scored 54 goals in 129 appearances in a Rovers shirt, and tagged on another 52 during four seasons under Eoin Hand at Limerick, during which he won the League and FAI Cup.
His impressive goal tallies earned him recognition for the League representative side, and one of his great memories is a game, under the management of John Giles, against Argentina, when a young Maradona was beginning to make world headlines. Gary still has the shirt of Argentine World Cup winning captain, Daniel Passarella, as a cherished souvenir of that famous occasion at the River Plate stadium.
“When I was released by Rochdale as a young lad I remember vividly travelling home by bus to tell my dad. It was a heart-breaking experience, and I could never have imagined then that it would be the door to open such great opportunities, winning the League of Ireland twice, an FAI Cup, scoring more than 100 goals, and playing in front of 85,000 people in one of the great stadiums in world football against some of the world’s top players. I also got the opportunity to play European football against Red Star Belgrade and Real Madrid.
“Away from football, I made Sligo my home, set up a business and reared a family. I live in Strandhill, one of the loveliest places in the world.
“And I made true and loyal friends both in Sligo and Limerick. No wonder I regard coming to Sligo as one of the best decisions of my life and, who knows, the present crop of young players might well go on to similarly good experiences,” Gary adds.
Looking to Saturday’s game, he urges supporters to help the club reach the 3,000 attendance figure to mark the historic 3000th competitive game.
“It’s a proud landmark for any club to achieve. I’ve always been aware of how much the club means to the local community. Even now, nearly 40 years after I stopped playing, hardly a day goes by without somebody stopping me in the street to talk about Sligo Rovers. It would be terrific to see the Showgrounds full to the brim for such an historic occasion,” he concludes.