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Liam Buckley salutes the fans at full-time on Friday night. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Liam Buckley salutes the fans at full-time on Friday night. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Liam Buckley salutes the fans at full-time on Friday night. Pic: Carl Brennan.

sligochampion

The 2021 League of Ireland season came to an end for Sligo Rovers on Friday night with a 1-1 draw against Bohemian.

It was back to work straight away on Saturday then for manager Liam Buckley as he tries to put a squad together ahead of the new season.

Rovers are expected back in pre-season in very early January, which is only weeks away.

The players will take a break, but there is no rest for Buckley.

“For me the work doesn’t stop,” he said afterwards.

“We’ll chat tomorrow (Saturday) and have a chat. We will have a chat with all the lads.”

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For Buckley, Friday brought an end to a tough season in ways, but also a successful one.

Rovers achieved their aim of securing third place weeks ago, which is one place higher than they finished last season.

There was tough periods for Buckley and his players at times, but they have come out of it with third place in the bag.

“It’s been a tough season in ways, bearing in mind the middle part of the season where we came unstuck. As I said to the players, we can’t just look at those weeks, we’ve got to look at it over 36 weeks, whatever it was.

“We finished third which is an achievement in itself. They have worked hard for it, it’s been back to the walls at times but nonetheless, I thought we deserved our draw tonight.”

Buckley was adamant that he wanted to finish the season on a high at home on Friday night, and Rovers fans were treated to an entertaining game against Bohemian.

“It’s important we keep the integrity of the league right, and that we do turn up. I felt last week against Derry, first half I thought we were average.

“There was a bit more intensity and better tempo in the game this evening. It’s important, we had a full house this evening with fans so it’s important they see that we’re trying to get a result. Please God we can carry that onto next season.”

The Rovers boss praised youngster Johnny Kenny, who enjoyed a fantastic season in his first year in the senior squad after scoring for the Republic of Ireland Under 19s.

“He’s had a fantastic week, bearing in mind he scored three goals at international level. He’s come in and scored tonight. I spoke to him at half-time and he was absolutely bunched, I gave him a few minutes to see if he could bag a second goal but I knew he was tired.

“He’s had a lot of travelling. I’m delighted for him, he took his goal fantastically well. It;’s been a brilliant season for him. He’s been introduced to it, he’s stepped up to it, all the pressure and expectation that goes with it, and he’s had a fantastic season.

“He does remind me of his father. He’s chasing after everything.

“Bar a few games when I might not have played him with knocks and all he’s certainly started pre-season well.

“We knew he was always going to be a good player and fair play to him. He’s dug in. It is a big ask. It’s a tough competition. Fair play to Johnny he’s kicked in and we needed him.”

There were a couple of regrets from this season for Buckley, namely the defeats in Europe and the FAI Cup.

“As far as I’m concerned, Europe was first and foremost. If you can get that then you try and win the cup and try and get through around or two in Europe, we came up short in both of them. Hopefully next season, we can make sure we don’t drift into that run of defeats that we had.

“The fear of losing was outweighing the excitement of winning. When you see them tonight, they’re trying to win. That’s how we need to play every week.”

With around 14 players signed up for next season, Buckley will be speaking to everyone over the course of the week to discuss next season.

“We’re still going through it as you do at the end of the season. You can’t have them all done beforehand, there’s group of 20 players. We’ll be having chats with them over the next few days.

“What I find is that everybody is chasing the same players, so we’ll see where we go. There’s a bit of work being done behind the scenes, we will be busy over the next week or two.”


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