Sligo Rovers: 3 - 2 St Patricks Athletic
A LINE in a song, about a once-famous phrase from match reports, came to mind as Sligo Rovers clinched the Airtricity title when they defeated second placed St Patricks Athletic 3-2 at the Showgrounds yesterday (Saturday).
''God's footballer turned on a sixpence,'' Billy Bragg wrote and beautifully sang of a well known Wolves footballer of the 1970s.
There was a wolfish hunger about the manner in which Sligo Rovers set about wrapping up the title yesterday with two games still to play.Small Cast
The quality of their passing in the first half belied the torrential rain overnight and in the morning in Sligo. The rain failed to dampen spectator enthusiasm either with a sellout attendance of 5,000.
The Rovers man who 'turned on a sixpence' -- and scored one of the best goals of the season -- was Rafael Cretaro. The game was 21 minutes old. His goal will be remembered and talked about for 50 years.
The "Tubberurry Tornado" now joins a small cast of Sligo players who featured in Sligo's League of Ireland winning teams, including "Monty" Monaghan 75 years ago, and Tony "Fago" Fagan and Paul "Ski" McGee 35 years ago in 1977.
The sixpence - a ''tanner'' or ''sprassy'' -- was a coin big in vogue when Rovers won its first league title in 1937, 75 years ago. It had been replaced by decimal currency when the second title came. We are now into the euro currency, which hopefully will still be in place when Sligo hunt back-to-back league titles in 2013!
That 1937 team, as now and as in 1977 , was peppered with a strong international flavour. Two internationals yesterday turned the tide early on in Sligo's favour.
Started The Party
Joseph N'Do of Cameroon started well, always a great sign of things to come in a game. He played his heart out before he left the field and before the title was won. N'Do became part of an elite band of players who've won League titles playing with a number of different clubs.
But it was Paschal Millien from Haiti who started the party yesterday afternoon. His meticulous, crisp, 25 yard ground pass with pace from the left wing found Rafael Cretaro in the penalty area - seemingly marked.
Within the blink of an eye, Cretaro's exquisite footwork found him free with clear sight on goal. His strike under Pats goalkeeper Barry Murphy was a gem to grace any important occasion.
Three minutes later it was Cretaro again, as he ghosted in unmarked at the left post to head crisply home after Gavin Peers got a touch on Ross Gaynor's corner.
All season, all over Ireland, Rovers have been causing havoc with a series of successful strategems at corner kicks, involving N'Do, Gaynor, Peers, McGuinness. Nobody watched Cretaro. Nobody even bothered covering the inside of the far post, the sort of error you dont see from middling Under 10s.
So, 2-0 and it looked game, set and match. It was to be, too, in the end of the day but not before St Patricks put in a stirring second half shift.
In the 53rd minute Christy Fagan firing home after a delightful chipped through ball from Seán O’Connor. 2-1.
O’Connor then hit a post with a free-kick before St Patricks levelled matters in the 60th minute when Chris Forrester beat Gary Rogers in the Sligo goal after a short free-kick from O’Connor. 2-2.
It was tight and tense and Paschal Millien dragged an attempt narrowly wide in the 75th minute.
The Pat 80th minute substitute Flood dashed away from Jason McGuinness, but his right-footed strike hit the bar.
Both sides had their chances to seal the three points but it was a controversial 89th minute penalty called by the referee's assistant which sealed the game, sealed St Pats fate and sealed Sligo Rovers first league title in 35 years.
Conor Kenna was adjudged, harshly, to have handled the ball in the box. Mark Quigley -- a former St Pats Player -- cooly hammered home the penalty.
Finally, spare a thought for Sligo town man Mark Rossiter from Cranmore, a member of the St Pats squad. He collected his second runners-up accolade in recent years; previously a panel member with another Dublin club, Bohemians .
Cue: Pitch Invasion
Quigley had scored his first league goal - an 85th minute winner -- when Damian Hancock refereed the Derry versus Sligo game back in July. Hancock, correctly, waved away claims by either side that night for penalties.
Two red cards were shown in added time last night, as Sean O’Connor and Danny Ventre had an altercation.
The final whistle was the cue for a huge pitch invasion as Sligo Rovers celebrated their first league title in 35 years.
Man of the Match Mark Quigley perfectly summarised his Roy of the Rovers moment for RTÉ Sport: “These are the sort of days you want to be playing.
"You put on boots as a young lad and you hope to score the winner to win the league," said Quigley.Especially Attractive
All season, Ian Barraclough has been sending his team out to WIN games, never playing for draws. Fortune favours the brave and all that.
Most teams who win leagues do so by playing attacking football. The brand played by Sligo this past two seasons has been especially attractive to watch.
Rovers -- and they're not finished yet -- have now played 28 games, won 17, drawn ten, have scored 52 goals and conceded just 19. Only one game has been lost. They remain the League's top scorers.
It has been a great week for South Sligo footballers -- first Adrian Marren's 'masterclass' and his ten points in the GAA County Senior Football Final. Now Rafael Cretaro, like a seasoned game hunter, bagged his second brace inside a month.
Cretaro and his Rovers team mates, the manager and his predecessor, may not quite have the stature of Abraham Lincoln. But now they, too, in the annals of Sligo all "belong to The Ages."Sligo Rovers:
Gary Rogers, Jeff Henderson, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor, Lee Lynch, Danny Ventre, Joseph N'Do, Paschal Millien, Mark Quigley, Rafael Cretaro. Subs used: David Cawley for Henderson 54th minute; John Dillon for Millien 76th minute and Liam Buchanan for N'Do 84th minute.St Patrick's Athletic:
Barry Murphy, Ger O'Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham, Greg Bolger, James Chambers, Jake Carroll, Sean O'Connor, Christy Fagan, Christopher Forrester. Subs used: Vinny Faherty for Bolger 46th minute; John Russell for Chambers 70th minute and Anthony Flood for Forrester 80th minute.Referee:
Damian Hancock (Dublin).