Author: Jack Dempsey

Article: Academy nurturing club’s future stars

BY JIM GRAY

A recent report on the FAI’s Academy system made for grim reading. The country has 24 soccer academies but only ten full-time staff to govern them. In Portugal, by comparison, there are only seven academies but 315 full-time academy staff. No wonder the number of young Irish players coming through at major professional clubs has been in sharp decline over recent years. Only sustained government and FAI funding can help remedy what has become a genuine crisis, but given the continuing disarray of the football administration here, such investment is unlikely to materialise anytime soon.

Sligo Rovers is one of the ten clubs with a full-time academy director, and despite the obvious flaws in an underfunded system, Conor O’Grady remains optimistic, though not blind to the reality of the situation.

“The lack of funding and facilities is scary,” he agrees. “Major investment is required if we’re realistic about the development of young players.

“In our case, almost all of our academy coaches are volunteers. They give up two nights a week for training and possibly a full day for a game at weekends. How long can that continue? How much more can we demand from coaches who are doing the best they can for no pay? And it’s much the same at all League of Ireland clubs.

“Our underage teams train twice a week because it would be grossly unfair to demand more from our coaches. But the reality is that some teams in the local youth leagues get more coaching. That can’t be sustained in the long-term.

“But we get on with it. We have six academy teams and standards are improving all the time. We’ve produced numerous players for both the men’s and women’s first teams and for other teams around the country. Imagine what we could do with proper investment.”

Notwithstanding the limited resources, under O’Grady’s leadership, the academy coaches have done a terrific job in fostering and nurturing young

talent. The evidence is visible in the number of academy graduates who have flourished at senior level ever since the club’s first under-19 team, under the guidance of Ciaran Kelly and Gavin Dykes, produced gems such as Regan Donelon, Gary Boylan and Scott Lynch. The initial under-17 team unearthed the likes of John Mahon, Ed McGinty, Jack Keaney, Liam Kerrigan, Niall Morahan and Luke McNicholas. Later still, O’Grady was in charge of an under-15 team which nurtured an exciting crop of A-listers such as Kailin Barlow, Killian Heaney and Johnny Kenny.

Add in the likes of Sean McAteer, Owen Elding, Daire Patton, Conor Reynolds and Kyle McDonagh, currently on the fringes of the first team, and you get a flavour of the ongoing success. Mikey Place (Ballymena), Peter Maguire (Ballinamallard), Paul Doyle (Dundalk), Ruari Keating (St. Pats), Niall Holahan and Eanna Clancy (UCD), Jack Keaney (Drogheda), Mark Byrne (Treaty United), Darragh McCarthy (Kerry F.C) and Conor Walsh (Finn Harps) are illustrations of how other clubs are benefiting from Rovers’ development work.

The women’s academy teams, under-17s and under-19s, have been equally productive. Graduates currently in the club’s senior women’s squad include Sarah Kiernan, Kate Nugent, Ciara Henry, Kelsey Munroe, Muireann Devaney, Kerri O’Hara, Cara King, Keeva Flynn and Alice Lillie.

Girls who’ve gone on to play for other senior clubs include Roisin Molloy, currently starring for Athlone Town; Abegayle Ronanye, formerly of Galway United; and the former Peamount player, Kate O’Dowd.

For Conor O’Grady, being head of the Rovers’ Academy is more than a job; it’s a vocation of near religious fervour. The club has been part of his life since boyhood, when he’d hop over the fence of his grandmother’s Tracey Avenue home to watch his heroes. But his qualifications for the job run much deeper than mere sentiment. He’s played more than 250 senior games for the club. He’s a League Cup and FAI Cup winner, whose knowledge of the game was further developed during spells at Cork City, Derry City, Finn Harps and Ballinamallard.

O’Grady is quick to acknowledge the work done by local youth clubs in developing young players before they reach the Showgrounds squads.

“The local clubs do a terrific job. One of the first things I did when I got the Academy job was to meet with the Sligo/Leitrim Youth Committee, and the co-operation from day one has been fantastic. That’s not always the case in other counties, where there are sometimes complaints if the senior clubs recruit

young players. Here, it’s seen as an honour if a young girl or boy joins Rovers, and that’s how it should be. We’re giving talented young players something to aim for—the chance to play in the League of Ireland national leagues. It couldn’t happen without the co-operation of the local clubs. They’re a vital cog in the development wheel,” he asserts.

At the other end of the spectrum, when those raw young recruits have developed to the stage where first-team football becomes a possibility, it’s O’Grady’s job to advocate for his charges.

“My job here is to get as many players as possible into the first team. It’s as simple as that. I’m their advocate. I’ll be the one knocking on John Russell’s or Tommy Hewitt’s door, and in fairness, in recent years there has been a great willingness from the senior managers to give young boys and girls a chance. We’ve reached the stage where we can promise players that if they’re good enough and work hard enough, then their chance will come. There’s plenty of evidence in the current senior squads and in previous years to suggest we keep to that promise,” he says.

He candidly admits that the development of young players to a point where they can attract the attention of bigger clubs is also a target of the academy, and he believes the opportunities for talented youngsters have never been better.

“The club invests heavily in the academy, so it makes sense to bring in revenue if the chance of a transfer of a young player presents itself,” he maintains. “We have a good reputation here, so scouts are always watching. The exposure young players get has never been greater. Technology, the internet, and online streaming all increase access for scouts. In the old days, scouts were based mainly in Dublin, but now that all of the bigger clubs have access to all our games, they don’t need to be physically present. And, because of Brexit, the big European clubs are now beginning to look towards Ireland. In that sense, young players are in the shop window like never before, and we would never stand in the way of any young player who gets an opportunity to further his or her career.”

In keeping with the club’s stated objective to be a regional club for the North West and beyond, the Academy stretches its net far and wide in search of the best emerging talent. Currently, in the six academy teams, there are players from Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, and Fermanagh, as well as Sligo.

“I think the club has long ceased to be just a parochial football team. We have the facilities here, the ambition, great management on and off the pitch, six academy teams producing top players, and ambitious plans for the future. We are now a proper football club in every respect,” O’Grady maintains.

But none of that happens without massive behind-the-scenes work and commitment, the level of which even took O’Grady by surprise.

“I’ve been in football all my life, but until I started this job, I honestly never fully realised the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s been an eye-opener for me. I see firsthand the commitment of the coaches, who work all hours, day and night, the sacrifices parents make, and the loyalty and graft of the young players. It’s great to be in the Showgrounds when a young fella or a young girl gets a big ovation from the supporters, and that’s when it hits me how much work has gone into getting that young player to this stage.

“For me, its 24/7, relentless. But I love every minute of it. There’s a bit of Sligo Rovers in my blood, so, in that sense, it’s the dream job. I’m not saying we get everything right; it’s not perfect, but we strive to make it that way day in and day out. The payoff for all of us involved is to see the young kids come through, fulfilling their dreams. And, equally important for me, is that we maintain a good relationship with all the players who come through the academy and go on to do other things in life. There’s great satisfaction in that, too,” he explains.

Match report : vs Glentoran

AVENIR SPORTS CUP

SLIGO ROVERS 1, GLENTORAN WOMEN 5

MATCH REPORT BY CONALL COLLIER

Sligo Rovers completed their Avenir Sports All-Island Cup Group campaign with a disappointing defeat against Glentoran Women at the Showgrounds on Sunday evening.

Both teams were chasing a first win in the Group after defeats by already qualified Galway Utd and Athlone Town and it was Glentoran that proved too strong for the Bit O’Red and were well worth a merited victory.

The hosts were well in the game in the opening half and levelled close to the interval, but then conceded a lead goal to Glentoran in the 44th minute to trail (1-2) at half-time.

It was all Glentoran in the second-half with the exception of chances for Muireann Devaney on 57 minutes and Keeva Flynn soon after.

The Bit O’Red featured three changes from the scoreless Women’s Premier Division draw against Bohemian FC seven days earlier with Alice Lillie, Kate Nugent and Lauren Devaney coming into the starting 11 for Zoe McGlynn, Amy Roddy and Cara King.

Glentoran dominated the opening exchanges and missed a gilt-edged opportunity as early as the fifth minute when Demi Vance was wide from inside the six-yard box.

However, Glentoran kept probing and passing the ball around confidently and were rewarded in the 18th minute when Kerry Beattire finished at the far post after a Vance effort was blocked and bounced kindly for the visitors.

Sligo Rovers worked hard in an effort to get into the game and Katie Melly went close in the 35th minute, but her effort was cleared for a corner.

The hosts continued to press and a quick break gave Sarah Kiernan some space and her flick was finished to the net by Muireann Devaney who won a race for possession with Glentoran netminder Ashleigh McKinnion in the 42nd minute.

Parity didn’t last too long and defensive frailty paved the way for Glentoran to lead at the break when Kelly Bailey capitalised after a cross wasn’t cleared and that was sufficient for a 2-1 interval advantage.

Vance claimed her second goal on the hour with an opportunist finish and Glentoran continued to press and were rewarded with further goals from Chloe McCarron in the 76th minute and Joely Andrews five minutes from full-time.

Sligo Rovers – Bonnie McKiernan; Sarah Kiernan, Kelsey Munroe, Keeva Flynn, Kate Nugent, Eimear Lafferty, Muireann Devaney, Katie Melly, Keri Loughrey, Alice Lillie, Lauren Devaney.

Subs – Ciara Henry for Nugent and Cara King for L Devaney both half-time; Leah Kelly for Loughrey and Rebecca Doddy for Melly both 65 mins, Amy Roddy for Munroe

Glentoran – Ashleigh McKinnon; Jessica Foy, Nadene Caldwell, Demi Vance, Emily Wilson, Aimee Neal, Joely Andrews, Kerry Beattie, Kelly Bailie, Jenna McKearney, Chloe McCarron. 

Subs – Rachel Rogan for Neal 64 mins, Sofie Keenan for McKearney, Aimee Kerr for Caldwell and Rachel McIntyre for Wilson all 74m Kascie Weir for Beattie 82m.

Referee – Ryan Maher

Assistant-referees – Wayne McDonnell, Darragh Keegan.

Fourth official – Richard Storey.

Article: Home thoughts from abroad for Rovers global supporters

By Jim Gray

When Robert Browning wrote his exquisite romantic poem, Home Thoughts from Abroad, yearning for the everyday delights of his homeland, he certainly couldn’t have had football in mind. Yet, his sentiments ring true for exiled supporters of Sligo Rovers, a football club whose global attraction bridges oceans and continents, providing a genuine link not only with its diaspora but with many others encountering the magic of the club for the first time.

Rovers’ army of international supporters continues to grow. For a club based on the periphery of Europe, once regarded as a distant soccer outpost even in its own country, the club’s global appeal is truly remarkable. Some of these ardent followers are Sligo natives whose life paths have taken them to every corner of the world; others are people with no connection to Sligo, or indeed Ireland, who have discovered and been entranced by the irresistible lure of the bit’o’red.

In this article, we feature two of these devoted long-distance supporters – one a native of the town now living and working in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and another from Alabama, USA, who first discovered the club through a FIFA video game and has since crossed the Atlantic on a number of occasions to sate his appetite for the joy of following Rovers.

Argentina-based Eamonn Maye, is a proud member of Rovers international family. He was born and raised in Sligo, literally in the shadow of the Showgrounds.

“My father’s house stood just across the tracks behind the railway end stand. I could see the games from my bedroom, but thankfully didn’t need to as he would take me, along with my brothers, to the games,” Eamonn recalls.

Those early experiences shaped his love of the club, a life-long attachment which has defied both disappointment and distance.

“Right from the start Rovers gave me a sense of community”, he enthuses. “We would meet our cousins and friends on the terrace and spend most of the

game running around playing, with little idea of what was happening on the pitch! This sense of community would only grow over the years, as I made friends through Rovers, found jobs through Rovers, and found accommodation through Rovers. There is almost no aspect of my life that hasn’t been impacted by the club.”

Becoming a dedicated supporter in his own right as he grew older, Eamonn travelled to away games all over the country as well as a couple of European adventures, before leaving Sligo for foreign shores in 2014. He spent several years travelling and living in various countries before settling in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2019.

“My relationship with Rovers is one which has endured the long distance, though at first it was difficult to follow closely from abroad. Time zones did not always allow for following games live, and very little was televised. Mostly I was listening to games on Ocean FM, and getting some more detail afterwards from family or friends who had attended,” he says.

Oddly enough, Eamonn believes the best thing that happened to LOI fans abroad was the Covid pandemic. It brought with it the opportunity to watch every game live, which thankfully has stayed around afterwards.

He gives a special shout-out to the guys from BORST: “Their podcast really brought back that connection to the club that was almost lost over a few years away and is still eagerly anticipated each week. It’s a huge boost for the international fan”.

In Argentina, he reports, the question ‘which is your team’ gets asked at least a couple of times a day: “I always tell them that here, I am a neutral, happy to go along to watch any game but I don’t need another team, I already have Sligo Rovers.”

Generously, Eamonn says to any Rovers fan considering visiting Buenos Aires not to hesitate to get in touch with him.

“I’m always happy to meet up to talk Rovers, give some advice on Argentina or help out with securing tickets to games here,” he confirms.

While Eamonn’s love of the club could be described as an ‘accident of birth’, the case of an American devotee illustrates Rovers’ uncanny knack of getting under the skin even of those who had previously never heard of Sligo.

Forty-two years old, Sean Rourke from the U.S Southeastern state of Alabama, discovered Rovers about nine years ago through playing a FIFA video game.

“From there, I looked into the club and started following and got hooked,” he explains. “Owen Heary was manager at the time when I started supporting. I have been to the Showgrounds four times and have only seen one goal scored other than the penalty shootout against Bala Town but I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m looking forward to getting over again in September for the Dundalk game.”

For long-distance supporters, following the club’s fortunes has become much easier in recent years, as Sean explains.

“When I first started, I was only able to follow the games on the team website or twitter or through the Rovers Hour on Ocean fm. Since then, it has become easier and better. We have the Borst podcast, we can watch the matches on Loi TV, or listen to the full match commentaries on Ocean fm.”, he says.

Sean immediately fell in love with the town on his first visit.

“Even though I had never been there before, it felt like home. The people are great, I have made friends with the Borst guys and socialise with them when I’m over. We have become friends, not just people who support the same team. Also, I have had many interactions with the office staff and everyone has been amazing. I love that the club is owned and run by the supporters. It sets Rovers apart from every other team and makes for more passionate fans,” he insists.

His first trip was in 2018. Since then, he has been over in 2019 for the start of the season and caught two games at the Showgrounds, and the last time he visited was for the Bala Town game.

“I’ve been to two battles of the Rovers, as well as St. Pats, and Bala, and I’ll be over for Dundalk in September this season. I make the trip mainly to see the Rovers play, and work in seeing other parts of Ireland around the fixture.

“I have Irish ancestry but don’t have any family connections that I know about. I would like to think that the O’Rourke Castle remains on Lough Gill were

related to me, being we have the same last name, and maybe that’s why the Sligo area feels so much like home.”

Not surprisingly, Sean agrees that some people might find it strange that he’s so passionate about a football club on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean that few, if any, of his peers have even heard of.

“My family are supportive, although they’re not really into sport. Most people at home wouldn’t be into soccer anyway, much less League of Ireland, so I guess I’m thought of as a bit odd. But I love it and am so delighted to have found this unique club”, he declares.

*We will feature more members of Rovers’ amazing global supporter family in forthcoming editions of the E-programme. Next stops on our world tour are Abu Dhabi and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lotto – Joanne Lands Big Rovers Jackpot

Joanne Kelly from Kingswood Cross, Dublin was the lucky winner recently in Rovers weekly lotto draw, winning the jackpot of €8,800. Though Joanne is a Dubliner, her family have strong Rovers connections. Her Dad Hugo is a loyal supporter, for many years he travelled to Sligo for games with his great friend Jack Carney. Joanne is one of an increasing number of people who enter the Rovers lotto on-line. ‘It’s a quick and easy way of supporting the club, and every draw gives you a chance of winning a jackpot or a Match 3 Voucher.’

Rovers on-line lottery has become very popular in recent years. Particularly during Covid, when lotto agents were restricted, the online lottery became an attractive alternative. It has developed to an extent that in the region of 30% of tickets in each draw are purchased online. This is reflected in the geographical spread of subscribers, with people participating from countries such as Australia, America, and England. The St Patrick’s Day draw earned a €200 voucher from a Canadian punter.

Doing the lottery online could not be easier. There is the option of subscribing to an individual draw, or for convenience people can enter their chosen numbers for a full year to ensure they never miss a draw, simply log on to the link on Rovers’ website and chose from a number of options.

The Sligo Rovers lottery is acknowledged to be one the most generous of the lotteries in terms of payouts. Since January 2023, it has paid out over €42,000 in jackpots and Match 3 Vouchers, prize money unrivalled by any other similar lottery. The largest jackpot in recent times was €18,800 won by the Kennoy family in August 2023.

Rovers Chairman Tommy Higgins congratulated Joanne on Kelly on her recent success. ‘This latest jackpot win shows that our lottery is the most enduring and successful of the local lotteries. We have people playing every week from across the world, they find it a great way to support their home club. With the ongoing support of our regular punters, it can continue to be a hugely valuable fundraiser for Sligo Rovers.

3rd May 2024

Article: Rovers are still the reigning All-Ireland football champions

By Leo Gray

This Friday, May 10th, marks the 10th anniversary of Sligo Rovers historic victory over Dundalk in the final of the Setanta Cup.

The triumph meant that Rovers claimed all the top honours in domestic soccer – the League Cup, FAI Cup (3 times), the League of Ireland Championship and the Setanta Cup – in a spectacular 4 year golden era – the quickest haul of the major trophies by any club in the country.

The record-breaking achievement was completed by the Setanta Cup success. A rain-sodden surface at Tallaght Stadium threatened to spoil the occasion as a spectacle but heroic Rovers made light of the demanding conditions and a stubborn challenge from a resolute Dundalk team to chisel out a hard-earned 1-0 victory, courtesy of a well-taken Paul O’Connor goal.

It was the ninth and final time that the cross-border tournament took place, meaning that the Bit O’Red can claim to be reigning All-Ireland soccer champions ten years on from their famous win.

Rovers demonstrated their intent right from the start of the competition, registering an emphatic 9-1 aggregate victory over Crusaders in the quarter-finals.

The first leg took place at Seaview on February 24th and it turned out to be a spectacular occasion for new recruit, Eric Odhiambo, who marked his competitive debut with an impressive hat-trick. Aaron Greene also got in on the scoring act as the Bit O’ Red cruised to a surprisingly easy 4-1 victory.

The result meant the second leg at the Showgrounds on March 10th was no more than a routine engagement for Rovers. The Irish League side, obviously demoralised from the first fixture, offered little by way of resistance and, as expected, it was all one-way traffic as Rovers romped to a comprehensive 5-0 win. Danny North helped himself to a brace while Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor and Liam Flatley also go on the scoresheet.

St. Patrick’s Athletic were expected to provide a more searching test in the semi-final, especially as the draw dictated they would have the second leg at home.

Indeed, the first game at the Showgrounds on March 25th was a closely fought encounter. Danny North, playing against his former club, gave Rovers the lead and the Dublin side might well have settled on taking just a one goal deficit back to Inchicore for the return game. However, North struck again just before the end to give the Bit O’Red a two goal cushion.

Still, it looked as if everything was still to play for when battle resumed in Richmond Park on April 14th.

Pat’s were entitled to believe they could turn things around on their own patch but Rovers were having none of it. Producing a ruthless display of sharp attacking football and incisive finishing,

they completely overwhelmed the home side, storming to a stunning 5-1 victory, bringing the aggregate score to a comprehensive 7-1 outcome. Scorers on the night in Inchicore were Raff Cretaro (2), Joseph Ndo, John Russell, and an own goal by Foran.

Dundalk, meanwhile, came through the other side of the draw and so the scene was set for what promised to be a fascinating showdown in the decider at Tallaght Stadium on May 10th.

The formbook suggested Rovers would go into the contest as hot favourites. They had claimed an impressive haul of silverware in the preceding years while Dundalk were more accustomed to desperate relegation battles.

However, Stephen Kenny, was slowly putting a highly talented and motivated squad together at the County Louth outfit and they fancied their chances of upsetting the odds.

Few could have anticipated it then but the opposing managers in the final, Kenny and Ian Baraclough, would go on to manage the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the years that followed.

An unseasonal cloudburst which transformed the usually immaculate playing surface at Tallaght into a treacherous quagmire threatened to produce more farce than fanfare but it is to the credit of both sides that they fashioned a competitive, entertaining final.

Rovers went into battle without a number of key players, among them Gavin Peers, Alan Keane and Raff Cretaro while midfield talisman, while captain for the day, Joseph Ndo was forced to limp out of the action after 34 minutes.

On a day which demanded courage, grit and skill in equal measure, the Bit O’Red rose to the challenge magnificently, engineering a first half lead and then defending with commendable vigilance and composure after the break.

The energy-sapping conditions clearly took a heavy toll on weary limbs but, to a man, Rovers stepped up to the plate, expending every ounce of energy in pursuit of the big prize.

After clocking up a staggering sixteen goals on their way to the decider, Baraclough’s men required only one to snatch the spoils on this occasion.

And it came slightly against the run of play in the 14th minute. Greene’s pace took him clear down the right flank and his low, inviting cross was swept to the net by industrious midfielder, Paul O’Connor.

Only a few months earlier, O’Connor had been on the scoresheet for Drogheda against Rovers in the 2013 FAI Cup final but this was his turn to earn an indelible place in Sligo soccer folklore as big match hero and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

As Dundalk stepped up the pace in search of an equaliser, Pat Hoban twice came close to putting the sides on level terms and Richie Towell was out of luck with a powerful long range effort. And Rovers had another close shave just before the end when David McMillan’s clever lob demanded a first-class save from Gary Rogers.

Given the heroics of Rovers defensive resistance on the day, it was hardly surprising that the man-of-the-match award went to Jeff Henderson who was immense in the centre of the back four.

He said: “It’s a great honour to be chosen as the man of the match but the most important thing is that we won the Setanta Cup to add to our haul of trophies. We were under pressure at times but we kept our composure and kept them at bay. I’ve won the League, the FAI Cup and the Setanta Cup with Rovers. I could never have imagined that things would work out so well when I

joined the club. It’s incredible. Rovers are a top club and deserve to be up there challenging for all the top honours.”

By winning the Setanta Cup, Rovers carved out a unique record in Irish domestic soccer, becoming the quickest club in the country to win all the major trophies. They won the first division championship in 2005, the FAI Cup in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the League Cup in 2010, the Premier League Championship in 2012, and the Setanta Cup in 2014. No other club has ever won all those trophies in a nine year span.

No wonder manager Baraclough was elated after the club’s latest triumph.

“The Setanta Cup was the missing link in our roll of honour and we were determined to put that right”, he beamed. “It’s a significant win for the club and it’s all down to a brilliant group of players. We probably didn’t play as well as we can but that happens in Cup finals. The lads were terrific in their commitment and spirit. It was all about getting over the line.”

When skipper Ndo went off injured, North took over the captain’s armband and so had the privilege of lifting the coveted trophy after the game.

“I never thought I’d be the one to lift the Setanta Cup for Rovers but I was honoured to do so,” he enthused. “We talked about the two injured captains, Alan Keane and Gavin Peers, lifting the trophy but they didn’t seem too fussed about it so I was thrilled to get the opportunity. But, of course, it’s all about the team and the lads were brilliant. If you don’t want to win medals, you shouldn’t be playing football. With the Setanta Cup in the bag, we’ve collected the lot and it just shows what a brilliant club Sligo Rovers is”

The history-making team lined out as follows in the final: Rogers, Conneely, Henderson, McMillan, Gaynor, Russell, Ndo, Cawley, O’Connor, Greene, North. Sub: Ledwidth. Subs not used: Brush, Spillane, Maguire, Odhiambo, Dykes, Djilali. Other members of the squad were Keane, Peers, Cretaro, Brennan, Loftus, Donelon, Boylan, Murphy, Taheny, Casey, Flatley.

Dundalk lined out as follows: Cherrie, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Shields, Horgan, Mountney, Hoban, Massey, Towell, Meenan. Subs: Byrne, Higgins, D McMillan

Boot Collection at the Showgrounds

Sligo Rovers are delighted to announce that the Showgrounds will be a collection point for the Our Shoes campaign.
From Monday April 29th until Friday May 3rd the public are encouraged to drop off all of their pre-loved children’s sports shoes and football boots between the hours of 9.30 am and 5.30pm at the Showgrounds.
Our Shoes was set up in 2019 after Ciarán McHugh, Kevin Grant and Geoff Lockwood visited the Khayelitsha township in Cape Town in South Africa which is home to 2.4 million people.
Our Shoes initially ran two pilot appeals which saw the donation of 15,000 pairs of sports shoes which had outlived their intended use in Ireland, but which still have lots of life left in them. In 2023 children in over 300 Irish schools donated 20,000 pairs of shoes to the kids in the townships.
With the help of their partners Our Shoes ship thousands of shoes to South Africa on an annual basis where they are distributed to some of the most deserving kids in the townships. While the group is very welcoming of all donations of all sports shoes for children there is also a particular focus on pre-loved football boots that would enable the many talented players in the townships to play football safely.

Ciaran McHugh from Our Shoes said “A pair of shoes is often the difference between a hopeful or bleak future. Shoes are more than something that keep your feet safe and warm.  Like most countries, you need shoes to go to school in South Africa. Along with shoes being part of the school uniform, they also allow learners safety and provide a sense of self-esteem and dignity. and they are often the most difficult item to get in materially poor communities. We are delighted to partner with Sligo Rovers on this campaign and we are asking the public in the region to donate as many of your preloved children’s sports shoes and football boots to the Showgrounds. It has a real impact on so many lives.

Sligo Rovers FSR officer Jamie Murphy said ” It’s a privilege to team up with Ciaran and the Our Shoes campaign. As a community club we are well aware of the power that football and sport in general can have in creating meaningful change in the lives of people, in particular people from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds. From speaking with Ciaran we are well aware of the fantastic impact Our Shoes have on many thousands children and we want to help with that it whatever way we can. In terms of sustainability and reducing the impact that football has on the climate it’s also a fantastic campaign. Because of all of the different types of synthetic materials needed to produce a pair of sports shoes or boots they are almost impossible to recycle. They have a huge carbon footprint and by donating them to kids in townships you are helping to create a more sustainable future for us all.

Rovers In The Community

Last week the club were privileged to welcome some of the programme participants from the National Learning Network, RehabCare, Elevate, and CI Connect to the Showgrounds for a tour of the ground and for some football sessions. The visit was part of the club’s commitment to ‘Football For All’ and marked the beginning of a programme of football related activities over the next number of weeks.

We are looking forward to welcoming everyone back very soon. For more information on the clubs plans for Football Social Responsibility (FSR) initiatives you can contact our FSR officer on fsr@sligorovers.com

#RoversInTheCommunity #MoreThanFootball