Monday 18 December 2017

Going the extra yard to keep Rovers in a healthy financial state

Brendan Byrne.
Brendan Byrne.

Michael Moran

HE'S THE Donegal man who has given a lifetime of service to Sligo Rovers.

Brendan Byrne has helped raise hundreds of thousands of euro for the club.

The Letterkenny native was also instrumental in ensuring the Bit O'Red bought the Showgrounds.

That was in 1968, eight years after Brendan came to work as a Staff Officer with Sligo County Council.

The Sligo Agricultural Show Society held a lease on the ground and Rovers a sub-lease. Both had expired.

A search of land registry documents revealed part of the ground was owned by an English-based Ms Fowler, the daughter of a British Army Officer.

Brendan was a member of a Supporters Club which met in Willie Kelly's barber shop, Teeling Street.

He joined members of Rovers Management, the late John Fallon (Chairman), Ray Gallagher and Jimmy Gilmartin.

The men then met the Kilkenny-based solicitor who acted as agent for the Fowler Estate.

Brendan said: " We thought it was going to be the first of many such meetings. Suddenly, the solicitor asked how much we were prepared to offer.

"After a long embarrassing silence, I used my knowledge of land purchase for the County Council to say £4,000."

Three weeks later to Rovers' "amazement" the offer was accepted.

Later that summer, a figure of £2,500 was also agreed for the remainder of the ground owned by the Campbell estate.

Brendan said: "Sligo Rovers were now the owners of the Showgrounds for £6,500. The only problem – we had no money."

The Management Committee went to the late Sean Forde in the former Provincial Bank, Stephen Street and vital funds were advanced.

To pay back the bank a house-to-house collection was started.

Brendan called to homes in St. Joseph's Terrace, St. Brigid's and M.C.R. to get two shillings per week from supporters. This continued until the end of 1972.

Brendan has been raising funds for Rovers almost ever since.

He sold the weekly Lotto around the pubs of Sligo every Friday and Saturday night for five years.

Brendan also helped establish the then 400 Club in 2003. Peter Henry was the prime mover.

It's now grown to become a fully-subscribed 500 Club. Up to the end of 2012, the group has handed over a total of €760,614 to Rovers.

Brendan also assists with the annual €10 summer draw.

It involves more door-to-door selling.

With Chairman Tony Quinn, Brendan covers an area from Calry to Carney.

He said: "We always get a good response. People are very supportive of the Rovers. Of course it's easier when things are going well.

"The F.A.I. Cup and League successes have helped."

It hasn't always been so. The history of Sligo Rovers is littered with crisis.

Brendan remembers a time in 1988 when the club was at a very serious low in the First Division.

It was a fight for survival.

He joined the Management Committee at the AGM and served as Chairman for two years.

In the second year, Manager Dermot Keely guided Rovers to promotion.

Brendan said: "We've had our ups and downs since. The last five years have been the most successful we have ever had.

"I think we have built the foundations to go on to achieve more."

Brendan could well be knocking on your door very soon to ensure Rovers do just that.

Sligo Champion

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