Former Rovers Manager Billy Sinclair was guest of honour at the official launch of the new outdoor museum at the Showgrounds.
Other speakers at the launch were the Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council Cĺlr Tom MacSharry, the Chair of Sligo’s Local Community Development Committee, (LCDC), Cllr Chris MacManus, and the Chair of Sligo Rovers Heritage Group, Aidan Mannion. The event was compered by Austin O’Callaghan.
Others in attendance included former players Tony Fagan, Chris Rutherford, Gavin Dykes, Anthony Elding and Mayor Cllr Gino O’Boyle, Deputy Eamon Scanlon, Councillors Declan Bree and Thomas Walsh. Rovers Vice-President Paddy Gilmartin was also in attendance, along with Peace IV Programme Manager Martin McAndrew.
Billy Sinclair recalled his first days as Manager of Rovers, from the first meeting with the players in the Imperial Hotel to their first training session in the Showgrounds He said he was fortunate to work with outstanding people during his time in Sligo, players like Tony Fagan, Chris Rutherford, Mick Leonard and Paul McGee.
He fondly remembered the trojan work of the many club volunteers he befriended over the years, including late Dermot McCullagh and his brother Club President Eddie. He spoke of the cross-border friendships developed over the years, particularly with Glentoran, where he had two spells as a player before joining Rover
The Cathaoirleach Cllr MacSharry said ‘The landscape of this fascinating display is much broader than the 90 years of Rovers, it is, in effect, the social history of Sligo from the time the club was established in 1928. Sligo Rovers was always a welcoming club, it embraced people from all countries and backgrounds, and in doing so reflected the cultural diversity of Sligo over the 20th Century. A walk through the museum will show the ethos and culture of the club have always been consistent with this ideal, many who came to spend time with Rovers would make Sligo their home, where they were welcomed and often celebrated by the local community.
The Chair of Sligo’s LCDC Cllr Chris MacManus described the Showgrounds Museum as ‘an initiative instigated by the Heritage Group as a unique feature unequalled at any other League of Ireland ground.’ He said their committee believed the project ‘is an outstanding way of highlighting how Sligo Rovers – an integral part of the fabric of our town and county – has been promoting social inclusion over many decades. From our perspective when we consider the ideals and objectives of the Peace IV programme, they are consistent with the history of this ground and this club.
The Chair of Sligo Rovers Heritage Group Aidan Mannion outlined the background to the project and gave a snapshot of some the characters exhibited in the museum, including Dixie Dean, Johnny Chadda and Charley Courtney. Right throughout the club’s history, it was a welcoming place for players, managers and volunteers who travelled to make Sligo their home. He outlined other projects the Group has instigated, including the publication of two histories and the hosting of a number of exhibitions. He thanked the local Peace staff of Martin McAndrew and Karen Gallaher for their advice and support over the course of the project, and commended the project team of Daragh Stewart (Design) and Ballast Signs (production).
After the formalities the guests visited the various exhibits in the museum located at the back of the main stand. Over the coming weeks, the remaining exhibits will be erected in other areas of the ground.1