Paddy Gilmartin named Honourary President

Sligo Rovers chairman Tommy Higgins made a presentation to Sligo Rovers new Honorary President Paddy Gilmartin and Vice-President Ray Gallagher at a ceremony before the first home game of the season.

Paddy Gilmartin’s first involvement with Sligo Rovers was in the 1960’s through the Supporters’ Club. Their main role was fundraising, and he recalls one of the many ventures they had was selling trinkets known as ‘Dowry Dolls’ which they sold all over the county and even ventured across the Donegal border to sell them in Bundoran.

Paddy became Secretary of Rovers, and probably his greatest signing was the legendary Johnny Brooks, and they remained great friends long after Johnny retired and emigrated to South Africa. Paddy sourced the U-18 England International through an English journalist (who admitted he never heard of Sligo!) and Brooks signed a contract for £30 a week. Paddy remembers ‘We had five forwards in the squad each costing around £30 a week, while the total wage bill for our defenders came to that amount – that’s the way it was in those days.’

He recalls travelling to Dublin Airport with Johnny Chadda and John Fallon to meet Tony Bartley to try and persuade him to become player-manager ‘We discovered on the journey to Sligo he was a golfing fanatic, so after a quick visit to the Showgrounds we showed him Rosses Point Club and he immediately said ‘Where do I sign?’ Paddy was involved in signing many players for the club; ‘As is always the case, some fared out better than others –  Tony Cavanagh  and Ben Hannigan made a great contribution and were very popular with the supporters.’

Our remote location in the northwest meant it was often hard to attract players. Jackie Quinn who used to travel from his home in  Athlone to play for Rovers, and Paddy recalls telling him ‘If you could pass the ball, you would be a great player.’ Quinn’s reply ‘If I could pass the ball, I wouldn’t be with Sligo Rovers.’ 

Paddy was a trojan worker for Rovers all his life-time, and he has nothing but fond memories for the club he served so well.

Ray Gallagher has been associated with the club and especially the grounds over many years. Like Paddy, his first involvement with Rovers was through the Supporters Club, when in 1966 Albert Higgins persuaded him to come on board.

But arguably Ray’s greatest contribution was his work in securing the Showgrounds for the club. When in 1968 Ray discovered the Fowler estate lease on the Showgrounds was due to expire in two years, he travelled to Kilkenny with John Fallon (Rovers Chairman and Mayor of Sligo) and Brendan Byrne to meet with Solicitors James, Poe, Kiely Solicitors, who represented Kathleen Chadwick, sole beneficiary of the Estate. Their negotiations were successful and they acquired the Fowler estate for £2,500. The estate include the main playing pitch, the remainder of the ground was owned by the Campbell estate, and that was acquired shortly afterwards, also for €2,500.

For many years Ray soldiered to maintain the grounds, alongside his great friend Paddy Morahan. They worked tirelessly with no resources to look after the main  playing pitch, and it is to their great credit that it was very rarely that a game was postponed because the pitch was unplayable.

Ray want on to come Chairman of the club and Chairman of the Development Committee. In the latter role he was instrumental in overseeing the transformation of the Showgrounds with an ambitious development programme that included the construction of the Treacy Avenue stand and the installation of the all weather facility.