BY COMMON consent, Tony Fagan was the heart and soul of the Sligo Rovers team which won the 1977 League of Ireland Championship. A local player, he epitomised what the club was all about, battling against adversity all the time but never prepared to throw in the towel.
He was to Rovers what Roy Keane was to Manchester United and Ireland two decades later – a fearless leader who spared nothing in the pursuit of glory.
He made his debut for Rovers in 1968 and was already part and parcel of life at the Showgrounds when Billy Sinclair began to mould the team which would make the historic breakthrough in 1977
"We always thought of ourselves as a Cup side – a team that could rise to the occasion against any opposition in a one-off situation," says 'Fago'.
"But it wasn't until Billy Sinclair came to the club that we started to believe we could push on and challenge for the League.
"The club took the brave decision to go full-time and Billy put together a squad of full-time and part-time professionals and it proved to be a winning formula."
Reflecting on the 1976/'77 season, 'Fago' says the team didn't set out with any specific targets. But after making a good start, they began to believe they were good enough to win the League.
"Because we had such a small squad, it really was a matter of putting the shoulder to the wheel every week. If any of us had an injury, James Tiernan would patch us up and we go out and play through the pain barrier."
Living with his wife, Patricia, just a stone's throw from the Showgrounds, 'Fago' never misses a home game and has been very impressed with the progress the club has made over the last few years.
"When we won the League in 1977, I didn't think it would take so long to win it again and I'm absolutely delighted for everybody at the club that they've finally ended the long wait.
"Given the progress they've made in the last few years, I feel Rovers are now well set up to go and be a dominant force in Irish football for many years to come," added Tony.