Special European Nights for Sligo Rovers Fans

A special night of European football awaits in a packed showground on Thursday night as Sligo Rovers take on Scottish Premier Division side Motherwell scoring a goal from the first leg of their Europa Conference League second round qualifier Gained edge.

Last Thursday night’s dramatic and well-deserved win at Mohrwell then Park has set up a mouth-watering second leg tie.

There have been several historic matches at The Showgrounds over the years and if Bit O’Red manages to qualify for the third round of this European competition on Thursday night, it will rank with the best of them all.

After two wins so far in the competition, fans and indeed Sligo as a whole have buzzed over the past few weeks as Rovers embraced UEFA club action for the first time in many years.

Who will forget goalkeeper Ed McGinty’s valor in the home clash with Bala Town as Rovers knocked out their Welsh counterparts on penalties.

Ed stood tall as mist and darkness descended on The Showgrounds two weeks earlier, but signs were good with a penalty shoot-out taking place in front of Rovers fans and the keeper proceeded to send an ability appearance to save two kicks one. Under 4,000 in the frenzy.

Some 500 fans made their way to a 2–1 win over Rovers in the first leg at Park Hall in Oswestry, UK, and again at Park last Thursday night as former Hearts and Falkirk striker Aidan Keena made it one And it was a night of excitement. The Mullinger native, proved the winner after 27 minutes to stun the hosts.

It was a sea of ​​red and then behind the goals in Park’s McLean stand and the vigorous support by the players was greatly appreciated as they dug deep several times to defend their thin lead.

Before kick-off it was announced that McGinty had left the club to join Oxford United in the English League Division One, but the news of his departure was not surprising, as many fans expected a dangerous day soon. Come, their quality was such.

His absence from the line-up in the league match against UCD was a big sign that a move was imminent and he left with well wishes from fans and everyone at the club.

And, of course, his replacement, Kilkley native, Luke McNichols, has been talked about for the past few years, who also has the potential to become one of The Showgrounds’ legendary goalkeepers.

He, like McGinty, has come through the Sligo Rovers academy and his speech on loan in the season that lasted with Cliftonville marked him as future Sligo Rovers number one.

His performance against Motherwell was excellent, with a header from the second half being the highlight. The rovers, as the saying goes, will be in safe hands going forward.

And, so Thursday is another big European night of football. Motherwell will bring around 300 fans to Sligo and the atmosphere in the showgrounds and around town really should be something special in the lead up to the match.

This is good business for the city as well. The away team would stay at a local hotel, (Bala Town was in Clayton) while the tie would also be supervised by a UEFA match representative and a UEFA referee.

Rovers’ last European entry before this season was of course in 2020, when the club very disappointingly ousted the Icelandic team, FH (3-1 on AGG) in COVID restricted matches.

In all, Sligo Rovers have won five in all European competition since they first played at that level in the 1977/78 season when they came against the famous Red Star club in the old European Cup.

Two wins this season have come against Bala Town and Motherwell.

Other victories were against Floriana of Malta in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994 (1–0), Lithuania’s Banga Gargazadai (4–0) at home in the 2014/2015 season and Rosenberg away (2–1) in the same season. , both in the European League.

So this Thursday night history will surely be made if Rovers can beat Motherwell and advance to the second round in European competition for the first time ever.

The financial rewards would be nice but not as much as some fans might think. Playing in Europe can be an expensive business.

Rovers have been lucky this season with two trips away, but a third-round match could be far from Norway’s Viking, which will be costly to fly.

As it stands, Rovers’ other rival could be Sparta Praha which will be more accessible to both the club and the fans.

The tie is 0-0 between Sparta and Viking after the first leg and the second leg will also take place in Norway this coming Thursday.

However it is estimated that Rovers could pocket upwards of €500,000 from the two matches played so far, with significant costs to be covered.

Hotel, food and player bonuses would all be taken out of the pot as well as the additional cost of hosting games at the showgrounds in terms of security and additional personnel.

It came as no surprise to learn that the same week the Rovers knocked on Bala Town, the club’s committee and dedicated volunteers were going door-to-door in the county’s towns and villages selling tickets to the annual draw.

Such is the life of a League of Ireland club and Rovers has never been found inferior in terms of loyalty and commitment from its supporters over the years, or indeed from its supporters.

Rovers don’t get success every season, but when they do, it’s fun. Many fans can remember the rough days, times in the First Division and earlier when the very existence of the club was in doubt.

Rovers and cities are like two peas in a pod, you just grow up following Bit O’Reid and distant days in Europe have become an extra dimension, a reward after rovers through hard times.

Fans instead traveled from both Bala and Motherwell to see their side see their side and when the two victories on the road made it worth being a fan of a club in the North West of Ireland where the passion for football is so much. Obvious.

It was so evident from the home game against Bala Town that Sligo Rovers is the heartbeat of the city.

A UEFA official told me before kick-off in the Bala match at The Showgrounds that he might charge a fee that it is a football city.

He said that he can really feel the passion for the game here.

Tomorrow night’s atmosphere will be one of the best ever at The Showgrounds.

UEFA regulations mean that capacity is limited to only all seats less than 4,000.

And, if Rovers manage to knock out Motherwell, Rovers may not be able to stage a third round bout at home.

The capacity of the field cannot be seen to be sufficient for this stage of the competition.

Rovers are currently working behind the scenes with the FAI to try to find ways to increase capacity with additional temporary seating but it will all come at the behest of UEFA and the safety and security of fans is always paramount.

It will be clear shortly after last night’s match whether Rovers will be fully cleared for a third-round match.

If not, the home leg will have to be changed to another, possibly Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in Derry or Talghat Stadium in Dublin, which is home to Shamrock Rovers.

No matter where the match is played, Sligo Rovers fans will be in numbers.

At the final whistle at Fir Park last Thursday night, a booze sounded for the home team in attendance at 7,000, but it was quickly drowned out by cheers of applause from Rovers supporters.

And, the matter would have been win, lose or draw.

It’s easy to praise when things are going well but Rovers supporters have stood by their club over the years.

The voluntary support given on a weekly basis to keep the club running is unprecedented. Loyalty is unconditional and that is what again makes nights at the park so special.

And, another big night is on the way. Rovers fans won’t be disappointed with the support. It’s often a cliche to say that support is a 12th man, but that’s exactly what has happened over the past few weeks on this remarkable Europa Conference League journey.

Despite going down a goal they sang their hearts out on the second leg at Oswestry and at home and they certainly did at Motherwell.

And we are all dreaming and supporters will have a more important role tomorrow night to help make history.

From the first whistle The Showgrounds will need to be the cauldron – Motherwell’s huge support will make their presence felt and it should be an opportunity to be remembered forever.

There has been a surge in support from young supporters, especially in these past few seasons. This is a good sign for the future.

Sligo Rovers has always been strong in the community. Playing personnel especially in the League of Ireland varies from season to season and this is the nature of football but being a supporter means a lifetime of loyalty and commitment and the team is certainly blessed to have such great fans because It faces one of its biggest tests in recent years.