By Alan Finn
In the mid-70s, Sligo Rovers were facing a potential goalscoring crisis.
For much of the early 70s, there was a reliance on Gerry Mitchell to find the back of the net. This of course wasn’t an issue for the late forward, but the reality was that Mitchell’s career was nearing its conclusion.
This created a headache for Billy Sinclair following his appointment as manager. There was an emerging talent in local forward Paul McGee, but Sinclair needed to find him a striking partner.
Up stepped Mick Leonard, a former Celtic hopeful who was recommended to the club by none other than the Iron Man himself, Sean Fallon.
Sinclair took a chance on Leonard who would go on to form one third of arguably the greatest front three to ever represent the club with McGee and Gary Hulmes.
Prior to his Showgrounds days, Leonard was seeking a new club after parting ways with Celtic, where he spent a couple of years in the reserves.
Leonard first sought a fresh start in England, but he had quickly made up his mind that he wanted to find a new opportunity elsewhere.
“I was in England for a little while, I was in Carlisle and then I went to Workington. Both of these clubs were interested in signing me, but I didn’t feel it was for me. I didn’t really like either place, the people were lovely, but it just wasn’t for me. Also, if we weren’t training or playing football the only thing the boys wanted to do was to watch the cricket. I would rather watch paint dry than watch cricket myself.”
That opportunity eventually beckoned as Sean Fallon, who hadn’t forgotten about the young prospect, felt there was a place for him in his native town.
“I was still getting interest from some clubs, but one day Sean called me up and said a guy called Billy Sinclair wanted to chat to me. Billy called me, he spoke to me about Sligo Rovers and that he wanted to see me play against Cliftonville in a friendly.”
Mick agreed to play in a few friendlies and was promised an option of returning home if he didn’t like it in Sligo.
Leonard initially signed a one-month contract with Rovers, but he quickly discovered that he found the club he had been looking for.
“I was keen to try something different and Sligo Rovers offered me that, I liked Billy and I liked the look of the team he was building and it seemed like a good place to play football. I felt like the people here would like you so long as you at least put in the effort. When we weren’t playing football we were watching it, it was a better alternative to watching cricket or the paint drying!”
For the full interview with Mick, see this week’s Sligo Weekender newspaper – in shops now!
Alternatively, you can purchase an online edition here