Lynch drawing up blueprint to turn Sligo into major force
WITH the decline of Bohemians becoming more and more alarming, tomorrow's FAI Ford Cup final represents an opportunity for their rivals Shamrock Rovers to complete the changing of the guard.
The Hoops' first league title in 16 years, along with the success of their new Tallaght home, has led to a growing certainty in League of Ireland circles that the traditional giants are back ruling the roost.
Who can challenge them? That is the question those within the league are asking as a host of clubs continue to cut back as the realities of a reckless decade continue to haunt the clubs who have dominated the domestic landscape.
Heads have begun to turn north-west, with tomorrow's finalists Sligo Rovers representing a beacon of hope against a green-and-white-hooped era of complete and utter dominance.
The Bit O'Red have been the darlings of the league this season, with Paul Cook's deployment of three playmakers in their midfield leading to plenty of plaudits.
But in the weary world of the league, on-pitch success quickly leads to scrutiny of the off-pitch model after an era of slash-and-burn financial planning.
Owned by approximately 470 members who contribute to the club weekly, Sligo will bring a huge army of fans to the Aviva Stadium and have an opportunity to grow their fan base and cement their place in the hearts of a new generation of Sligo youngsters.
That is why they have appointed Packie Lynch as general manager. The ex-UCD and St Patrick's Athletic defender has spent most of the last decade in the north-west, working as regional manager for Bank of Scotland.
With Halifax pulling the plug on their operation, Lynch was offered the new role and a route back into football. While other clubs are cutting positions on and off the field, Sligo have made an appointment that points to an ambitious future.
"It's my brief to change things and try to improve things off the field and to tie in the success that has been enjoyed on the field and to marry that with a professional set-up off the pitch," Lynch explained. "We want it to be fit for purpose for the professional era. If we are operating on five fronts next season, including the Setanta Sports Cup, we probably need to deepen and broaden the player base, but to stay within our means in doing so."
With a firm grounding in League of Ireland realities from his time as a player, Lynch is realistic about what can be achieved and he knows that tomorrow is a massive opportunity to expand the club's base.
"I'm really excited by the future here," he said. "It's an important time for the club. I know from winning the title with St Pat's in 1998 and '99 that sometimes managing success can be more difficult.
"I have been ensconced in the business community of the north-west for the past six years and I know the league. So if I can get 10pc more out of the club then it will stand us in good stead.
"Where the club has probably fallen down a bit in the past -- and this is not a criticism -- is that we have an army of volunteers, but it's the same 20 or 25 people who are being asked to do four or five things.
"That gives rise to a little bit of fire fighting, which they are very good at because the good will is there. But it is not strategic and is not forward-thinking enough. What we need to do is to get our heads up and play heads-up football from a strategic point of view.
"In a normal season we sell between 400 and 500 season tickets, but if I can get 10pc of the 7,500 people who bought FAI Cup final tickets in the first week to commit to season tickets, then we know that we'll have that 750 coming through the gate every week.
"We are also in the middle of signing and retaining players. We have agreed quite a few and are near a few more. There are also other opportunities in terms of other people's misfortunes.
"That's life, be it Bohemians or Sporting Fingal or wherever it is. It is probably a buyer's market for players and this could represent opportunities for us."