Rovers' 1977 players tell of joy at 2012 win
As Sligo Rovers prepare to celebrate their League Championship triumph on Friday against Shamrock Rovers, members of the last Rovers team to win the title in 1977 tell Leo Gray what this year's success means to them.
GARY HULMES (Scorer of 13 goals in 1977 campaign)
When we won the League in 1977, we could never have imagined that it would be so long before Rovers won the title again so I'm absolutely thrilled that they've made it this year.
I haven't been to a lot of games over the years - I'm the worst spectator in the world - but I've watched Rovers a lot on TV and I've been very impressed with the style of football they play. They are a credit to the League of Ireland.
I came to Sligo thirty-five years ago for what I thought would be one year. Now, all these years later, I'm still here, married with two children and two grandchildren, so I know what Rovers mean to the town and the county.
Rovers are a brilliant club and fully deserve all the success they're having. Paul Cook did a great job over the last few years and Ian Baraclough has taken it a step further this year. I'm absolutely delighted for everybody at Rovers, and the fans who have shown great loyalty to the club over the years. This success will give everybody a great lift.
BILLY SINCLAIR (Player manager of '77 team)
We wrote our own piece of history way back in 1977 and it's great that a new chapter in the club's history is written now. It's been a long wait and the club has had to come through a lot of difficult times over the years but they are now one of the top team's in the country and this year's League success proves that.
I've been keeping in touch with Rovers results over the years and I was delighted with their Cup victories in the last two seasons. Paul Cook was obviously building a team with the aim of winning the League and I think a lot of credit for this year's success goes to him. And, of course, Ian Baraclough has done very well to keep the momentum going, so fair play to everybody involved.
So much has changed in football and in Sligo generally since we won the League. The facilities we had were quite primitive and we had a very small squad. So it was a hard slog but we got there in the end. I have so much respect for the people I worked with in Sligo and I know how much this success means to everybody. It takes a real team effort on and off the pitch to win the League. It's not about individuals. Congatulations to everybody involved and I'm looking forward to going to Sligo to share in the celebrations.
CHRIS RUTHERFORD (Heroic defender on '77 team)
I'm so proud of the team - I think they are absolutely brilliant. I'm a regular at the Showgrounds since my playing days ended and the quality of the football and the level of entertainment that Rovers have provided in the last few years has been magnificent. And it's great to see so many families and young kids going to the Showgrounds every week. It's a real community club
I played on the 1977 League winning team and the 1983 FAI Cup winning team and I was also assistant manager to Willie McStay when we won the Cup in 1994. But this means as much to me. I'm delighted for Gerry Carr and Gavin Dykes, who were involved in the 1994 team and are still giving great service to the club. It's a great occasion for the town and the county and it's well deserved. The people of Sligo have always been so supportive of the club and it's great for them that they can celebrate this long overdue success.
TONY FAGAN (Midfield general in '77 squad)
It's been a long time coming but it's so well deserved. The club has put in a massive amount of work over the last few years and I think the experience of playing in European football so regularly and getting to three Cup finals, winning two of them, in the last few years was all building towards winning the League. Paul Cook brought in most of the players and he deserves a lot of credit for where we are today. And Ian Baraclough has taken us that one step further. He's a great motivator. He goes about his job quietly but he's brilliant with the players, giving them confidence to go out and win.
Centre backs, Gavin Peers and Jason McGuinness, give the team a great foundation and I've also been impressed by young David Cawley who settled really well into team once he got a run of games and built up a bit of confidence. Overall, the strength of the panel was the key to success. Rovers had a lot of injuries during the year but they were able to bring players in without weakening the team. Naturally, this year's run in the League has brought memories of the 1977 season flooding back. It was great to be part of that team but we had our time then and now the glory belongs to the current side - and rightly so.
I'm also delighted for the fans. As a native of the town and a former player, I know only too well how much this will mean to the fans. They have supported the club through thick and thin and they really deserve this success.
ALAN PATERSON (Rovers brilliant 'keeper in '77)
It's hard to believe that thirty-five years have flown by since we won the League. We really felt we had a team good enough to go on and win more trophies but it just didn't happen. I was in Sligo last week and met with some of the lads from the 1977 squad and the memories came flooding back.
Since I left Sligo, I've always kept an eye out for Rovers results. The club will always have a special place in my heart. I was thrilled when they won the FAI Cup in 2010 and 2011 but I know the League is the one they really wanted so I'm delighted that they've got their hands on it this year.
The fact that it's been so long since they last won the title makes it all the more special
I've been in Sligo several times on business over the years and I always meet people who welcome me back and want to have a chat about the 1977 season. It's nice to be remembered like that. I haven't actually been at the Showgrounds since I played my last match for the club but I'm going there for the Shamrock Rovers game and I'm really looking forward to it.