Sligo’s Big Day

on May 14 | by

In the latest look back on historic moments in Irish football, Sean Ryan remembers Sligo Rovers’ first ever FAI Cup triumph in 1983 when they dramatically upset the odds.


Flashback by Sean Ryan


What is the one event in Irish football that sticks out for you?
Sligo Rovers’ 1983 FAI Cup final win over Bohemians on a miserable, rainy Sunday afternoon in Dalymount Park. It ended 2-1 to the Bit O’Red.

Why was it so significant?
Primarily because it was Sligo’s first Cup success, but also because it ended what had seemed to their fans a jinx that attended their previous final appearances.

In 1939, the goals they conceded came direct from a corner kick and a free-kick; in 1978, from a penult in controversial added time, and in 1981 direct from a corner. After ’83, Sligo would approach finals with more confidence.

Who were the major people involved and what impact did they have?
Harry McLoughlin, for the wonder goal he scored in the 77th minute, which was worthy of a bigger stage. Tony Stenson, for his bravery in playing on after getting five stitches in a leg wound and then scoring the equaliser in the 58th minute. All of the others were heroes that day too.

Is there a particular moment from that event that stands out?
It really has to be that winning goal, when McLoughlin, who had switched from the right wing to the left, ran on to Martin McDonnell’s pass and, as the Bohemians defenders backed off, he looked up, saw goalkeeper Dermot O’Neill slightly off his line, and struck the ball with stunning accuracy into the far corner.

Was it an event that caught the attention of the Irish public?
Sadly not. Played on April 24 before 8,500 hardy fans, it was one of the better Cup finals. Usually in April the Dalymount pitch was so hard that it militated against good football being played, but the rain, while a test for the players, was also a factor in making this a Cup classic.

What was the knock-on effect from it?
By their own admission, Sligo had a poor team that year, so Cup success was as much a surprise to their supporters as anyone. Since then, Sligo’s Cup final record has been better than most.

Looking back on it, is there anything that still surprises you about it?
Yes that a formidable Bohemians team couldn’t make home advantage pay off, even after taking the lead in the 35th minute through Barry Murphy.

That Bohs team included League of Ireland icons such as Murphy, O’Neill, Gino Lawless, Paul Doolin, David ‘Rocky’ O’Brien, Jackie Jameson, and Terry Eviston, while their manager was the incomparable Billy Young. They must still be wondering how they lost it.

And did anything interesting happen in later years to those involved?
For the Sligo team it was undoubtedly the high point of their career, but there was more joy ahead for many of the Bohs players, with Cup and League successes for O’Neill, Lawless, Doolin, and Eviston. Sadly, we lost the magical Jameson in tragic circumstances.



Check out previous Flashbacks from SWAI members…
Marcus Cavaroli on when Drogheda United won the Premier Division
Noel Spillane on Ireland’s historic breakthrough at Euro ’88
Gareth Maher on Ireland Under 19’s reaching the European semi-finals
Noel Spillane on Brian Kerr’s youngsters at the FIFA World Youth Cup
Arthur Duffy on Derry City’s memorable UEFA Cup run
Philip Quinn on the night Ireland qualified for Italia ’90



*Image courtesy of Sportsfile


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