Twigg double sweeps Shams past Sligo in dour derbySligo Rovers 0 - 2 Shamrock Rovers
RTE GAVE us the best line as Rovers lost its first home match 2-0 to the Auld Enemy Shams on the final night of the season as Sligo were officially crowned champs in the Showgrounds last night (Friday).
There were just two names in contention for Man of the Match, said RTE during its live telecast; Gary Twigg whose brace won the game and the bragging rights into 2013 and the second name was Tony (Fago) Fagan ''for his footwork'' at half time!
The harder truth is that -- on this lacklustre League finale -- so many of last night's Airtricity League winning team would lose out in a direct contest for starting places with the 1977 Sligo squad from Fago's era.
First, the Gods. They have a strange sense of humour: Last time Sligo won the League 35 years ago they faced Shams in that season's final match. The Showgrounds was packed tight that day. Shams went 2-0 ahead that day.
You can understand the wee frisson of 'home' excitement when Twigg swept Shams into a 2-0 lead last night before a packed Showgrounds and a crowd estimated at 6,000.
The cup was presented to Captain Danny Ventre by Airtricity League chairman Eamonn Naughton and Stephen Wheeler, League CEO, after the match.
Members of Sligo’s last League-winning side of 1977 and their manager Billy Sinclair were guests at the celebrations.
For so many of those who turned out on a biting cold night, there was too little to remember from events on the field. Even the fireworks which landed on the field during the game were deemed damp squibs.
Equally dampish, Sligo's spark plugs failed them again last night as they dropped six points in six days in a jittery run-in. Thankfully, the League was long won. Half on Balance
Shams went 1-0 ahead as early as the 10th minute when Conor Powell swept a sweet pass from the left low and crisp into the penalty zone.
The 'damage' was done by Billy Dennehy from Tralee who stepped over the ball to leave it for in-rushing Scottish striker Gary Twigg to fire a left footer which thundered off the crossbar.
Gary Rogers made a superb effort to save that first shot but fell to the ground in so doing. Twigg, although only half on balance, was then able to tamely score his side's opening goal in his last game for Shamrock Rovers.
It was a classic poacher's goal, with Dennehy's dummy leaving Rovers with it all to do to try and save the situation.
In the 25th minute, Gary McCabe had a great chance to make it 2-0 after a Billy Dennehy cross.
Even though the game was barely 10 minutes on at that stage, Sligo could already have been at 1-0 ahead.
Joseph Ndo showed great technique in connecting with a fine volley from 30 yards but Jannson, in the Shams goal, had it covered all the way.
Ross Gaynor had a chance for Sligo in the 2nd minute and then a trademark long ball in by Joseph N'Do in the 5th minute came to nothing. In hat bright opening quarter for Sligo, Paschal Millien showed menace but equally the Shams defence showed they had the measure of him. It was Sligo's best spell last night.
Mayo man Marty Owens was barely 90 seconds on the field when he misjudged an intended pass back to his keeper in the 57th minute.
Gary Twigg broke in behind him on the left and neatly sidestepped goalie Gary Rogers and seemed to have lost the gifted chance.
However, Twigg looked up briefly, no doubt to mentally measure his tightened angle, and he then struck a firm shot just inside his near post at the railway end to make it 2-0.
It was a fitting finale for a wonderful player who shared in back-to-back Airtricity League ins by Shamrock Rovers and now heads to play for Portadown.
Sligo manager Ian Baraclough warmly congratulated Twigg as he was substituted late in the game. Moments later he was named Man of the Match.
Mark Quigley had a disappointing game, not helped by the serious stud injury he picked up in an over-the-top tackle by Dennehy, who only picked up a yellow.
Much of the final half hour last night was boring, even "brutal" said one observer. It was a dour derby for all but the lively first quarter in which Lee Lynch worked hardest. So much was promised, or expected anyway, to mark an historic night.
None of that will matter when the team get on board the open top bus through Sligo this afternoon (Saturday) and arrive to meet Mayor David Cawley on the steps of a Town Hall steeped in its own political history of centuries past.
The Borough was already 315 years old when Sligo Rovers club took its baby steps; 1613 to 1928. Neither the rain shower last night nor the 2-0 result will have put a damper on the huge sense of history made by the club last night.
Looking back on a great season, Sligo were the best team in the country in 2012. From May to mid October they were unbeaten, and unbeatable. Sligo started October with a 13 match unbeaten run at their backs.
Best of all, the did playing attractive attacking football, bags of good goals, some great goals, all guided by a manager who went out to win games both home and away.
Team of Teams
In late summer and early autumn Sligo pulverised allcomers. They beat Drogheda 4-1 on the August Bank Holiday weekend in the Showgronds. They defeated Derry 4-1 on the final Saturday night of September in Sligo. In the eight weeks in between they lost no games.
The stats summary for Sligo's season underlines the sheer class of it all over the past seven months of magic: Played 30 games, won 17, drawn ten, lost three, scored 53 goals and conceded just 23.
Jason McGuinness will probably be the Player of the Season. He will feature in most Rovers' fans 'Team of Teams.' His only competition is from Mark Quigley, whose goal-a-game made this team special in late summer and early autumn.
Super Cool, Intelligent
Romuald Boco was in with a right royal chance of that accolade before he departed for the pedestrian fare of Accrington Stanley. So too were Alan Keane and Danny North before injury claimed them both.
Not player of the season but most indispensable man on the field and indisputably so was captain Danny Ventre. His influence was immensely missed (and it mattered) in matches where he was out serving suspensions.
There is a fair chance the award for best young player of the year will go to David Cawley, who came to Sligo from Ballina.
Rovers had a super cool and intelligent manager in Ian Baraclough, a positive person who adds so much goodwill value to the Irish game. All this in his first season too.
Baraclough has the makings of a fine TV panellist and it would be nice to see that happen too.
Hopefully, manager Baraclough will now be given some added resources to make memorable history and bring back-to-back League titles to Sligo for the first time ever. That would be a truly fitting 85th birthday present for the club in 2013.
Oh, and Sligo are back at the highest level of European football since the mighty Red Star of Belgrade graced the Showgrounds. How times changed for them, and for us, since then.
Gary Rogers, Jeff Henderson, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor, Rafael Cretaro, Lee Lynch, Joseph N'Do, David Cawley, Paschal Millien, Mark Quigley. Subs used: Marty Owens for Henderson 55th minute; John Dillon for Millien 67th minute and Liam Buchanan for Mark Quigley 80th minute. Subs not used: Richard Brush, Jake Dykes, Ryan Connolly.
Oscar Jannson, Pat Sullivan, Ken Oman, Graham Gartland, Conor Powell, Gary McCabe, Killian Brennan, Conor McCormack, Billy Dennehy, Aaron Greene, Gary Twigg. Sub used: Dean Ebbe for Twigg in the 85th minute. Subs not used: Reyaad Pieterse, Colin Hawkins, Craig Sives, Sean Gannon, Shane O'Connor, Stephen Rice.Referee:
Anthony Buttimer (Cork).