Year in review: heroic Rovers end 35-year wait
TEN POINTS out of a possible twelve in September left Sligo Rovers tantalisingly close to landing the Airtricity League title -- but they still had a lot of work to do.
However, a hard-earned scoreless draw against Cork City at Turner's Cross on October 5th simplified the permutations. A win at home to St. Pat's on Saturday, October 13th, would secure the Bit O'Red's first League Championship crown since 1977 while any other result would mean the race for the title would go down to the wire over the closing weeks of the campaign.
Hardly surprising then that a sell-out crowd of 5,612 turned up for one of the most important games staged at the Showgrounds in over thirty years.
And what an epic encounter it turned out to be as the two best teams in the country produced an enthralling contest, handsomely decorated with breathtaking football, superb goals and a sensational finish.
Roared on by a fanatical crowd, Rovers stormed into a two goal first half lead, courtesy of a double strike by local hero, Raffaele Cretaro, the first of which would grace any soccer arena. But Pat's hit back to equalise in the second half with goals from Christy Fagan and Chris Forrester and the scene was set for a gripping climax.
There was less than a minute left on the clock when a linesman spotted a hand ball in a crowded Pat's goalmouth and up stepped the ice-cool Mark Quigley to dispatch the resultant penalty to the net.
After waiting 35 years, it all came down to that last dramatic kick and the goal was greeted with an eruption of wild jubilation on a day which will go down as one of the great occasions in the history of Irish domestic soccer.
With the title safely tucked away, Rovers lost only their second match of the season when they were beaten 2-1 by Drogheda United at Hunky Dorys Park the following week. And even a 2-0 defeat by Shams on the last day of the campaign at the Showgrounds coudn't diminish the sense of achievement in an historic year.
Team captain, Danny Ventre lifted the coveted title as the party got into full swing.