The King of the Hill who finally brought the FAI Cup to Sligo

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Harry McLoughlin. Photo courtesy of the Sligo Rovers Heritage Group

By Alan Finn

The 1983 FAI Cup Final rightfully claims its among the greatest occasions in the lives of many Sligo Rovers supporters who were lucky enough to experience.

While many locals got to follow it all from the stands, the responsibility also fell to some locals on the pitch.

One such homegrown talent was Harry McLoughlin, who recalls the day he forever cemented his place in annals of the club’s history.

As that year’s league campaign entered its final stages, the FAI Cup was just beginning and with a little encouragement from the captain, so was McLoughlin’s season.

“We played Home Farm in the first round and Fago was on to me to see if I would go. We trained on that morning, we went up to play them and I started. When I came back to see the doctor, he told me to throw away to tablets – I was ready to play again.”

McLoughlin scored twice in their unprecedented marathon run towards the final courtesy of three semi-final replays with Cobh Ramblers.

That saga with the non-league club sent the team into the final clash with Bohemians believing this would finally be their year, but that mindset was in jeapoardy by half-time.

“We thought we were in trouble, when you see Chris Rutherford going off after 20 minutes and Stenny (Tony Stenson) held together with stitches, you just started to wonder if it was going to be another one of those finals. We came back out after half-time and Stenny scored the goal that really got us going, it was just great encouragement for all of us to see him and the heart he showed to keep going and get the goal we needed to get back into it.”

Stenson’s header ensured the game had an exciting finish. Everything remains firmly in the balance but one breaking ball soon changed everything as Harry recalled the build-up to a famous goal which ended a 55 year wait for the famous trophy.

“I switched over to the left wing. Graham Fox made this great tackle to break Bohs down and I think it was Stenny who laid it off to Martin (McDonnell), I made a run down the pitch and Martin spotted me. He sent a brilliant ball up to me and I couldn’t believe the space I had, there was nobody coming to tackle me, so I looked up, I saw the goalkeeper off his line, and I just said to myself ‘here it goes’, I lifted it over the keeper and it was just a great feeling to see it land in the back of the net.

McLoughlin recalled, to this point, being well marshalled by one of Bohs all-time great players. His decision to swap wings was driven by instinct rather than tactics.

“I was after having a tough game against Gino Lawless on the other wing, I was well marked. I really just decided to take a wander and Gino never moved, he didn’t follow me over, but he shouted over to Alan Kinsella to keep an eye on me, but I still ended up with so much space and a lot of that was down to the quality of Martin’s pass.”

For the full interview with Harry, see this week’s Sligo Weekender newspaper – in shops now!

Alternatively, you can purchase an online edition here

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