Sligo Rovers finished 2014 quite a distance from where many would have anticipated they would conclude their season. Owen Heary will hope to change this once their season kicks-off on Saturday. Aaron Cawley previews the Bit O’ Red’s 2015 season.
Sligo fans will be hoping for a less tempestuous season in 2014 after what was seen by many as a disastrous 2014. Having gone through three managers and with a host of fan-favourites leaving the club some fans would have been forgiven for becoming disillusioned with matters at the Showgrounds.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though for the Bit O’ Red in 2014 as they won the Setanta Sports Cup early in the season and beat FK Banga in the Europa League first qualifying round, following that up with an impressive away win against Rosenborg.
The Showgrounds outfit finished a disappointing fifth in the league and fans will be hoping for a better league finish this season.
First Three Games
Sligo Rovers start the season with a home game against John Caulfield’s Cork City. There was little to separate the teams last season and Owen Heary will be looking for this trend to continue.
Sligo must face the Mayo League before their second league game of the season, which will pit them against Drogheda United. Drogheda have strengthened well over the off-season but may struggle to contain Rovers’ quick wingers. This writer fully expects two wins from the first two games.
The Bit O’ Red’s third game comes against Derry City where two on-the-pitch heavyweights in Peter Hutton and Owen Heary square up to each other, this time as managers. It will be a tough game but Sligo will surely be favourites to take all three points at home.
Gavin Peers – in his tenth year at club Peers is the player that manager Owen Heary will be looking to provide stability to the team when it’s needed.
Key Young Player
Sligo’s key young player has to be Ruairi Keating. Keating is a graduate of the u-19 squad, who impressed for both Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps in the 2014 season. There are high hopes for him in 2015 and hopefully he gets the chance to show Owen Heary exactly what he can do on the pitch.
Ryan Coulter (Athlone Town)
Coulter joins the Bit O’ Red for 2015 after impressing with Athlone Town last season. After starting his career with Dundalk, he took the leap and moved to America where he impressed for a number of years. He came back last season and showed why he had a number of English clubs chasing his signature.
Stephen Folan (Limerick)
The former Ireland under age star signs from Limerick FC where he played a part in helping them to an impressive 2014. Folan played with Rovers star Jeff Henderson at Newcastle and is a welcome addition to the Showgrounds.
Eoin Wearon (Bohemians)
Wearon followed new manager Owen Heary from Bohemians in the off-season and he will be hoping to show the Rovers faithful why Heary was so eager to bring him to the Showgrounds.
Keith Ward (Dundalk)
Ward joins Rovers from champions Dundalk and will be hoping to stay injury free for 2015 and show the Rovers faithful why he was so highly thought of at Oriel Park.
Stephen Beattie (Bohemians)
Beattie is another who followed Owen Heary west in the off-season. He’ll be hoping to add to his goal tally from last season and help secure the Bit O’ Red a decent league position.
Kevin Devaney (Bohemians)
Sligo native Devaney is another who followed Eoin Heary out of Bohemians in the off-season. After an impressive 2014 he’ll want to continue his progress and show why Heary was right to bring him home.
Sander Puri (free agent)
An Estonian international Puri signed for the Bit O’ Red after impressing whilst on trail in the off-season. An intelligent winger who likes to run at opposition defences, he’s an exciting addition to Heary’s squad.
Dinny Corcoran (Bohemians)
Dinny was Bohemians top scorer last season in all competitions and his goals will be a welcome addition to the team this year.
Morten Nielsen (FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt)
A product of the Chelsea academy, Danish-born striker Nielsen will be hoping to carry his impressive pre-season form into the 2015 League season. Like Puri, he’s another exciting player who will hopefully give fans at the Showgrounds something to shout about.
Gary Rodgers – Dundalk
Evan Mc Millan – UCD
Kalen Spillane – unattached
Iarfhlaidh Davoren – unattached
Seamus Conneely – Accrington Stanley
Joseph Ndo – unattached
Paul O Connor – Limerick FC
Danny North – Shamrock Rovers
Eamon Zayed – Sabah
Pundit Arena Expectations
There is a feeling of both excitement and anticipation around the club for this season. Fans expectations are lowered after the disaster that was last season, in saying that, many will hope Heary can keep up the tradition of winning trophies, something the Rovers faithful have become accustomed to over the last few seasons.
Two of the best signings the club have made over the close season are those of Morten Nielsen and Sander Puri. If they can both stay fit and on form this writer feels that Rovers will surprise a few of the so-called bigger teams this season.
This writer expects the Bit O’ Red to challenge for the league this season. One has a sneaky feeling they could put a run together and come next October be lifting the Premier Division trophy aloft. Heary will be hoping that his team can be successful in all domestic competitions and give the fans a day out in the Aviva Stadium next winter.
EA Sports Cup: quarter-finals
FAI Cup: semi-finals
The 2015 season will mark captain Gavin Peers’ tenth season with the Bit O’ Red, having won every honour with the Rovers. He’s rumoured to be lining up a day out in the summer to celebrate his ten years at the club.
Aaron Cawley, Pundit Arena