Gallery: CrossFit Sligo training session

Sligo Rovers’ first-team continue their pre-season preparation this week ahead of the beginning of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division on 19 February.

Rovers were in Cross Fit Sligo in Finisklin Business Park for the second session of the day.

Thanks to all at Cross Fit Sligo for use of their fantastic facility.

Hansberry becomes first Rovers signing

Emma Hansberry has become the first official signing for the Sligo Rovers team set to begin their debut season in the Women’s National League.

The Sligo native – a former Republic of Ireland international and a leading figure for women’s sport in the county – will proudly wear the Bit O’ Red for the 2022 season as manager Steve Feeney begins to assemble his squad.

The announcement was made as the club confirmed that all supporters who have purchased a season ticket for the men’s team will also receive entry to WNL games in The Showgrounds for free.

The move is with a view that both sides are under the same umbrella and receive the support of the dedicated Rovers fanbase.

Hansberry played in the inaugural Women’s National League for Castlebar Celtic in 2011 and then went on to play for Wexford as he represented the Republic of Ireland.

During her time in Castlebar she featured in the WNL Team of the Season and awarded the Young Player of the Year in Ireland.

In the 2013 FAI Women’s Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, Hansberry played well for the underdogs Castlebar Celtic in a narrow defeat to Raheny United.

At Wexford she went one better and won the Cup, winning the league three times as well as competing in the Champions League

Now, at 27, and with the Bit O’ Red taking steps in senior football, the midfielder will play for her hometown club.

She said: “It’s an honour to get the chance to play for Sligo Rovers. I knew one day Sligo Rovers would have a team in the WNL but I didn’t think it would come around this quickly. It’s going to be a pleasure to line out for Sligo Rovers this season and credit to everyone for making it happen

“When I was growing up, there wasn’t the same opportunities. For girls to be able to play at such a high level and to have national league at senior and underage level, I don’t think the players know how lucky they are to have it. It’s so much more enjoyable to be a part of it. The standard is higher, there is bigger depth of clubs and there is a pathway. For our girls in Sligo they had to travel elsewhere for years to other clubs before the underage leagues came in.

“It’s changed now and it makes me very happy to see it and even more to part of it. You’re going to have girls wanting to come to Sligo Rovers in the next few years rather than wanting to leave. When I was playing in my early days I had to travel to Wexford for four hours each way on a matchday just to play a game. Now we will girls wanting to play in Sligo, move to Sligo, study in Sligo in the IT and play for Sligo Rovers. The interest is going to skyrocket in the next few years. The support we’ve had so far for the team from the club has been amazing.

“They are all pushing for total professionalism. We train on the club’s training pitch, we play on the main pitch and we receive everything we need. Everything is to the highest standard possible and if that is happening from day one then it is actually very exciting. It shows that this is going to be a team and club of the highest calibre and the intentions in the long-term is to be one of the best in the country.”

Emma Hansberry has inspired younger female players in the region

More signings will be confirmed this week by the club. The academy teams will be utilised as players join the squad, meaning Hansberry will be a senior player in the group.

She is happy to take on the role while admitting that the progression of the skillset players have will also help bring the best out of her.

“At 27 I’ll probably be one of the oldest girls. No matter what age you are, every single player will bring different qualities. Everyone contributes in a different way. I’ve played in the league previously for a few years. I hope I can bring some experience to the younger girls – especially to those stepping up from the Under-17s or Under-19s – because I do know myself how daunting it can be playing against or with players who are so much older than you.

“I’ll try my hardest to help them along the way. On the flipside I will learn a lot from them because they are so technical and skillful. Their fitness levels are through the roof. They’ll benefit me as much as I benefit them.

“It will take time to find our feet. We’ll never go into a game with a negative mindset. It will be positive all the way and there will be tough games I’m sure. It’s important we build the basics by being hard-working, tough to beat and being very solid defensively. They are things we need to bring. We’ll have plenty of games that are tough or don’t go our way. There’ll be defeats and painful defeat because we are starting off. We will have to take those but also know we can win games as well. We’ll be trying to hold our own and win, knowing that this is the start and not something we can achieve overnight.”

Rovers have trained twice so far with a view to assessing players and forming the group. Manager Steve Feeney will shortly confirm his backroom team. Hansberry has been impressed by the first sessions under the manager, but not surprised given what she knew about the Rovers boss.

“Steve’s knowledge is first class. He’s very enthusiastic which has come across in our first two sessions. It’ll be a tough job for him but it’s exciting as well. I was delighted to see Steve appointed. He’s from Sligo, he’s associated with Sligo Rovers and will wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to this team. He has a pedigree to be a fantastic coach for any team and to have him as the first Sligo Rovers manager shows the level the club is aiming for.

“He also has a lovely way about him as a person. Managing a women’s team is quite different to a men’s team, you have to have certain characteristics, and Steve is a great fit. Any player here will appreciate him as a coach and manager. I think he’s going to be fantastic manager.”

Pre-season fixtures confirmed

Sligo Rovers will play a number of pre-season matches ahead of the start of the new SSE Airtricity League season.

The games are

  • Wednesday 26 January – Athlone Town away
  • Tuesday 1 February – Finn Harps venue TBC
  • Friday 4 February – Derry City away
  • Friday 11 February – Athlone Town home

More details will be released closer to the fixtures.

Rovers begin their league season on Saturday 19 February against Bohemians.

Kenny writes note to Bit O’ Red fans

Johnny Kenny has published a note for Sligo Rovers following confirmation of his transfer to Celtic this evening.

It reads: “After six years at the club I have grown up loving, it has come to an end. This has been such a tough decision and message to write because I love playing for my hometown club and I love being at home.

!But I think now is the time to test myself at another level. I want to say thanks to every academy manager at the club who has helped me. You’ve have been amazing, there is just too many to name.

“To all the people who keep this club running on a daily basis, I want to say thank you for everything since I walked in at that gate at the age of 13. 

“To the gaffer Liam Buckley and John Russell –  without their trust in me I would be nowhere near where I am today. I can’t speak highly enough of them and what they’ve done for me.

“Finally, to play for the club I love in front of you special fan. It was incredible. I got goosebumps every time my name went around the Showgrounds.

“It was a special feeling to play and score in front of all of you .

“So I want to say a massive thanks for taking to me and the support you’ve given me and I’m sorry I didn’t give you the send-off you deserved. I am now and forever a supporter of Rovers and I can’t wait to watch and support from across the water.

“This club has a special place in my heart. Thank you.”
JK24
BITORED

Kenny transfers to Celtic

Sligo Rovers can confirm an agreement has been reached with Celtic for the transfer of striker Johnny Kenny.

The 18-year-old, a product of the club’s renowned academy which has developed over a third of the current first-team squad, was the top scorer for the Bit O’ Red in his debut professional season.

He netted 11 times in the SSE Airtricity League, as well as once in the Europa Conference game against FH of Iceland, and helped the club finish in third place in the league to secure consecutive European qualifications.

The agreement with Celtic includes an undisclosed transfer fee, plus additional future-based terms.

A statement on behalf of the club’s management committee: “Following the conclusion of a period of negotiation with Celtic, the terms for the transfer of Johnny Kenny have been agreed to the satisfaction of Sligo Rovers.

“Johnny has made a noteworthy contribution to Sligo Rovers in just one season as a senior professional, helping the club secure European football again and establishing what is now a tradition of the Kenny family thrilling our supporters.

“We would like to acknowledge the work of his former club Arrow Harps FC for their role in Johnny’s development and the coaches within our academy who nurtured his game for four years until promotion to the first-team exactly 12 months ago.

“We will continue to evolve and invest in the Sligo Rovers Academy with our philosophy of creating a regional hub for footballers in the north-west, Connacht and beyond.

“As we build towards the new first-team season, our intention is to ensure our progress on the pitch is maintained.”

Sligo Rovers manager Liam Buckley said: “Johnny has been magnificent for Sligo Rovers. At a very young age he showed all the attributes to make a successful career in the game and he can take great pride in what he has already achieved in these very early days.

“It was clear a move would occur at some point and as it comes now, all of our staff, players and coaches wish him the very best. He retains our support whenever needed.

“The focus on first-team squad investment has not been altered. We have over 20 players under contract as pre-season begins and finishing off the squad is the priority of all. We will speak more on this in time. For now we congratulate Johnny and look forward to preparing for the 2022 season.”

2022 season tickets on sale

Season tickets for the 2022 SSE Airtricity League season are on sale here.

Supporters have the chance to reserve their own seat for every league game in 2022 and priority tickets for European and FAI Cup matches.

We’re making our season ticket simpler than ever and you can reserve your seat now

Gold – Secure Your Seat – Season Tickets:

A Sligo Rovers Gold Season Ticket allows the supporter to select their favourite seat in the ground and have it reserved for every game of the season. Whether you work late and can only make kick off, enjoy a pre-match tea or coffee in the clubhouse, or you simply want to wait until the last minute to avoid the cold, your seat is secured.

Gold season tickets will work out at an extra €3 per match.

Gold tickets will be offered in all categories.

Adult Season Tickets:

Adult season ticket prices cost €240.

An adult Gold ticket costs €300, where you can reserve your seat for every game, as explained above.

Gold Season tickets are continuing to prove extremely popular with an increase in demand each season. Due to Covid-19, this has not been applicable for the last two seasons so next year you can guarantee your seat once more.

Student and Concession categories:

We are again offering discounted rates for second and third level students. Secondary school tickets are €100, around half the amount you would pay by paying on the gate each week, and Third Level Student tickets are €160, saving you around €20 for the season. Upgrade to a Gold Save Your Seat ticket for just €220.

Bit O Red supporters who are unemployed can purchase a concession season ticket, with an up to date letter required from your local Intreo office to show your you are not working.

OAP/Senior Citizen Tickets:

These tickets are €160 for 2022, with the gold option just €220. Again proof of concession will be required.

Pricing for our concession tickets are among the most competitive in the League of Ireland as we stress affordable football for all.

Super Reds:

Our fantastic Super Red offer will again remain for 2022.

Season Ticket prices will be €60 for kids aged 12 and under, but this season they will get even more.

As well as entry to every league game, they will receive an official Sligo Rovers Training top as well as access to our Super Red open day and other perks such as priority booking on European Tickets and Kids Camps.

At the Super Red Open day they meet the first team players and be put through their paces by Rovers management staff in an hour long coaching session. Kids will also receive a birthday card in the post in time for their big day in 2022, signed by their favourite player. This is all part of the fee of just €60.

To purchase your ticket online, visit www.srfcdirect.com

To purchase your ticket, you may also visit one of the following outlets:

  • Barton Smith, Hyde Bridge, Sligo
  • Johnston Court Shopping Centre stall (from December)
  • Collery Menswear, Grattan Street
  • Greenan Electrical, Boyle
  • Collerys Shop, Beltra
  • John Gillespies, Tubbercurry
  • Centra Gurteen
  • Lavins Menswear Ballymote
  • Tony Quinn, Cliffoney
  • Michael Toolan, Achonry
  • Jim Gartlan Carrick on Shannon

You can buy online at any time on SRFCDirect by clicking here.

For queries, please contact 071-9171212 or e-mail administrator@sligorovers.com.

Supporters who purchase Gold tickets will be contacted directly by the club in time to save your seat.

Brush agrees contract extension

Richard Brush has signed a contract extension with Sligo Rovers. 

The 37-year-old is in his fourth spell with the club having re-joined for the 2021 season. 

Brush competed with Edward McGinty for the number of jersey last season and featured in the matchday squad on 33 occasions.        

Buckley has again secured the two-time league winner to compete in a department Rovers have a wealth of talent. McGinty, Luke McNicholas (currently on loan at Cliftonville) and Conor Walsh are also under contract.

An injury in pre-season scuppered him in the race for the starting position at the beginning of last year. He featured against Derry City late in the campaign and will once again be part of Liam Buckley’s squad for next season.        

The Rovers boss said: “Richard has been fantastic. He’s had a great career so far and there is more to come certainly.

“He has had to be patient and I don’t think luck shone on him at important points last season.

“Brushy is a very important part of the squad and a great person to have within the group. I think his influence has been felt in the last 12 months and it will continue to do so which is great news for everyone.”

Brush will enter a tenth season at the club in 2022.

A popular figure also with supporters after helping the club win honours early in his career and through more difficult seasons, he will once form a valued part of a enviable line-up of goalkeepers.

Brush said: “I knew when I signed last season the quality of goalkeeper was going to be very high and it was certainly the case. 

“What has been shown is you have to be ready to play because three goalkeepers were needed to play at various points of the season and four to be in the squad. Anything can happen and that’s how all of us will approach it next year. 

“It was bad timing to pick up an injury during pre-season which obviously made it more difficult for the start of the season and particularly given the standing Ed had having been first choice for a couple of years. In over 20 years in a career, you pick up the odd injury of course, it can happen and it’s part and parcel of the game. 

“It was nice to be able to come back into a full-time environment and know I can be ready and compete in that setting. That’s no disrespect to the Irish League but it’s just a different experience because with the intensity day-in and day-out compared to part-time. 

“I’ve enjoyed working with all of the goalkeepers here and it’s brilliant that all of us will compete again next season. I’m really pleased to sign again and we all know we can be needed at any point so in pre-season that’ll be on the minds of everyone to be ready for day one.” 

Brush, the most experienced of all the players in the club’s dressing room, said of the Rovers season last year and of 2022. 

“I had a really good feeling during pre-season last year. I could tell the squad was very capable and it was proven in the results over the first half of the season. It’s well-known we had a real bumpy patch. You have to factor in the players we were missing in that time and that’s not a slight on anyone, it’s just looking back Greg Bolger, John Mahon, Johnny Kenny, Robbie McCourt and Ed were all missing at a vital point in the season and it took a long time for all of them to return. They were top performers in the team and it hit us. 

“I do think the experience of going through that – and learning from it – will be a good thing for us. Last season some clubs in the league will feel they under-performed and they are all taking steps to change that so it’s going to get harder. We know that. We showed our quality was there to get us over the line to finish in third place and we’ll need to be better over the course of the season to match or improve on what we achieved last season.

“We also had the FAI Cup and the European aspect which, it goes without saying, we all want to do differently and make that a very different experience. The disappointments there again will drive us for next season and it’s great to have these targets again.” 

Rovers will return to pre-season training on Tuesday. 

Heritage Group supplement in Sligo Champion

Sligo Rovers Heritage Group have published a special 12 page Christmas supplement in The Sligo Champion, out now.

Included are features on soccer in Sligo during Christmas of 1894, an Irish Independent preview of 1939 FAI Cup Final, a piece on the recent award winning Rovers documentary, and an extract from Paul Little’s forthcoming book on Dixie Dean, focusing on his time in Sligo.

For more buy the Sligo Champion hard copy or subscribe to the e-paper at www.sligochampion.ie

O’Sullivan joins Bit O’ Red

Sligo Rovers are delighted to announce the signing of winger Karl O’Sullivan from Finn Harps on a two-year contract.

The 22-year-old has made over 100 club appearances between Harps and his former club Limerick.

O’Sullivan has scored several goals against Rovers, including a double for Limerick in an FAI Cup tie, and now joins the Bit O’ Red.

He said: “I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve been speaking with Liam for the last couple of months and he told me what he felt I could bring to the team. As an opposition player you would dread coming to Sligo and especially when they are going well. There is a great atmosphere in The Showgrounds and the club has a very big following. I’m hoping to chip in with goals and assists from as early as possible.

“I’ve played everywhere with Harps and Limerick but I feel winger is my strongest position. It’s a fresh start for me. I really enjoyed my time with Finn Harps, everyone at the club is brilliant.  I’ve been putting the work in this month in order to ready for pre-season and I can hit the ground running here. I’m very excited to play for the club and in the last two seasons Liam has led the team to the top four which is what you want. There’s European football as well so I can’t wait to get started.”

Manager Liam Buckley said: “It’s another really good addition. We’ve looked at areas we wanted to improve on and they include getting more balls into the box and having better deliveries.

“Karl will bring those qualities and I feel he comes to us at a good age. Despite just turning 22 a couple of months ago, he has had several seasons in the league and we’ve tracked him since his Limerick days. I think he will make an impact and he will fit in well with within the group. It’s great competition in the squad to bring in Karl and Will Fitzgerald. Our overall goal has been to build a stronger group and I feel we will do that. This is another good step in that direction and we look forward to working with Karl.”