Tony Cavanagh to feature on Bit O’ Red Wall

One of the most stylish wingers to grace Sligo Showgrounds, the late Tony Cavanagh, is to be remembered in the next section of the Bit o’ Red Wall at Sligo Showgrounds.

The first phase, made up of 315 individual tiles was erected last year. According to Colin Feehily, chief executive of Sligo Rovers, “plans for a new section, with Joseph Ndo featuring on the first tile, are attracting lots of interest. It’s a great way to celebrate a link with the club and we plan to have all the tiles for the next section of the wall sold and in place for the opening of the new season.”

Belfast-born striker, Tony Cavanagh, was signed by Billy Sinclair after Rovers won the League in 1977. The skilful performances he delivered during his two seasons at The Showgrounds earned him a reputation that remains intact forty years later.

‘Cav’ came to Sligo from Dundalk where he and fellow-winger, Jimmy Dainty, were key players in a side managed by Jim Mc Laughlin. A native of Belfast, he had been coaxed to Oriel Park after a season with Irish League side, Glentoran, by Des Casey.

In Sligo his modest personality and great sense of humour made an instant impression on everyone he met. He lodged with Bridie and Tommy Callaghan in Emmet Place. It was a great address for football because Tommy’s father and namesake had scored the first ever goal for Sligo Rovers in senior soccer.

Cav’s fellow lodger was Donegal-born left winger, Marty Kelly. They became part of the Sligo streetscape – Tony in the long, dark coat and Marty in a blue version. He loved banter and was a regular visitor at lunchtime to the Houze household in Market Street.

But Tony Cavanagh’s reputation was earned by his football skills. He had wonderful ball control, he was a great dribbler and to complement all, he was fearless. Often on poor surfaces, where the pace of the ball was slowed by rain and mud, defenders frequently targeted the jinking winger.

Television coverage of the League of Ireland was very limited, action replays and slow-mo technology didn’t feature and there was no tradition of protecting and encouraging expressive players like Cav.

He frequently played when carrying an injury because football was his full-time work. Several of the Sligo Rovers squad had lined out against him when he played for Dundalk. The likes of Tony Fagan, Paul Fielding, Graham Fox, Tony Stenson, Chris Rutherford, Mick Leonard, Gary Hulmes and Padraig Mc Manus became his close friends after he came to the Showgrounds.

Tony Cavanagh died far too young, aged 54, in August 2003. He was survived by his mother, his two sisters and his two daughters. He was laid to rest in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery.

The inscription on the Tony Cavanagh tile, sponsored by an anonymous fan, will read

Tony Cavanagh

Classy Winger

We Remember You

As well as enhancing the ground, the Bit O’Red Wall helps to provide funds for Sligo Rovers. It is one more example of the initiatives taken by the club to make the Showgrounds as the beating heart of Sligo and a standard-bearer for the League of Ireland.

It is anticipated that fans may wish to purchase a tile on the wall as a Christmas gift. Shane Crossan is overseeing the work. Tiles may be bought by using the Sligo Rovers website or by phoning Shane at 087-7526445. They are also available between now and Christmas Eve at Barton Smith Sport, Sligo at our official club shop.

To order a tile online, you can click

Alternatively, to purchase a tile over the phone, or to seek more information, you can contact Shane on the above number.