While the record books will show that Sligo Rovers title winning 2012 season came to a close with a defeat at the hands of Shamrock Rovers the result was ultimately immaterial as Sligo readied itself for a weekend of celebration.
A crowd in excess of 6,000 packed into The Showgrounds creating an atmosphere fitting for the occasion. An hour before the game the ground was already rocking and when the teams emerged from the tunnel the decibel levels were further increased.
Banners were unveiled to welcome the new champions and flares illuminated the ground as the party well and truly got underway.
With so much excitement it was perhaps understandable that the match failed to live up to the occasion and the quick tempo that had been such a feature of the home side’s league campaign was notably absent.
To mark the occasion of Sligo Rovers being crowned league champions for just the third time since their formation in 1928 their a number of special guests introduced to the crowd including the 1977 league winning team.
With club captain Danny Ventre suspended and Danny North, Iarlaith Davoren, Alan Keane and Seamus Conneely ruled out through injury manager Ian Baraclough was forced to make changes but the team selected was still expected to be strong enough to maintain an unbeaten home record that stretched back to August 2011.
Ultimately the spotlight was briefly stolen by Gary Twigg who scored twice, once in each half, on his final appearance for Shamrock Rovers but the sounding of the final whistle and the celebrations that followed suggested not too many in Sligo were overly concerned about the result.
Twigg began his tenure with the hoops by scoring on his debut against Sligo Rovers and it is fair to say his decision to move away from the League of Ireland is one that won’t be rued by any of the Bit O’Red faithful.
The game itself was not one that the tv audience would have been gripped by and for those in attendance it wasn’t much of a spectacle but it was an incredible occasion.
The Volkswagon Bank End which was constructed this year was packed to capacity, as were all other parts of the ground, including the temporary terracing that was erected to increase the capacity and that all helped to produce an incredible atmosphere.
The home side began well but for all their slick passing inside the opening stages they failed to create a chance of note and arguably against the run of play the visitors opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Twigg’s initial effort came back off the crossbar but he was the first to react and his looping shot went over Gary Rogers and into the Sligo Rovers goal.
Joseph Ndo had one of the home sides only real chances when he volleyed from outside the box but his sweetly struck shot lacked sufficient power to cause any problems for Oscar Jannson.
The away side started the second half as they finished the first and Twigg bagged his second of the night in the 57th minute when he capitalised on an error by Marty Owens before rounding Rogers and scoring from a tight angle.
The game petered out throughout the remaining 30 minutes as Sligo prepared to begin celebrations as they look forward to Champions League football next season.
Gary Rogers, Jeff Henderson (Marty Owens, 55), Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor, Rafael Cretaro, Lee Lynch, Joseph Ndo, David Cawley, Pascal Millien (John Dillon, 67), Mark Quigley (Liam Buchanan, 80). Subs: 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 (Dean Ebbe, 85).
Subs: Reyaad Pieterse, Colin Hawkins, Craig Sives, Sean Gannon, Shane O’Connor, Stephen Rice.
Referee: A Buttimer (Cork).
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