Gary Rogers keen to wind up season with major trophy
Sligo Rovers goalkeeper anxious to maintain impressive run of form against old club Drogheda and team-mate Fabio
Goalkeeper Gary Rogers hopes to be getting his hands on the FAI Ford Cup trophy at the end of tomorrow’s final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
If it was meant as a wind up, then Gary Rogers wasn’t biting when it was put to him that Declan “Fabio” O’Brien thinks Sligo Rovers are a team that can be got at, and that Rogers was not having the best of seasons.
“I don’t think the statistics quite bear that out,” he says with much the air of Gary Nicklaus when once replying to a disparaging question about the pedigree of his old Ohio alma mater with the line: “Well, Daddy went there . . .”
Rather like Nicklaus, Rogers went on to make a compelling case: “Defensively,”he says, “I think we’ve been very solid. We’ve scored quite a few goals as well but I think we have 27 clean sheets this season and we haven’t conceded a goal in the cup yet.”
This, despite having had to visit Waterford and then take on Derry, Cork and Shamrock Rovers in the rounds that followed. “I think we’ve done well,” he says with a hint of understatement after rattling off the games and results. “Everybody’s put in a shift and we’d be hoping to keep another clean sheet in the final.”
Fabio will get his chance to have his say on that tomorrow, but it’s clear that he and his Drogheda United team-mates will have to do a little better than Sligo’s opponents in those earlier rounds.
United, to be fair, have scored in four of the two sides’ five meetings this year although they have only won once, and Rogers sees tomorrow’s sixth encounter as offering the opportunity to put something of a shine on a season that will have been a significant disappointment if its ends without any silverware.
“If you were to win the cup I think you’d have to say it was an acceptable season,” says the 32-year-old who picked up a winner’s medal himself with United in 2005 even though he spent that afternoon on the bench.
“It wouldn’t be a great one but anytime you come out of a season with a major trophy I think you have to take something from it and, yeah, we can look to kick on again,” he adds.
The goalkeeper has come close in the competition since but never made it back to a final. “I’m a bit of a nearly man in the competition actually,” he admits a little ruefully.
“I’ve been beaten in seven or eight semi-finals, a few of them in replays or after extra-time so I was happy to get over the line against Shamrock Rovers this year because it’s one of those things, it was good to be there with Drogheda but I didn’t play and so it’s just not the same.”
Rogers has been around a bit since his days at United, where he played with O’Brien as the team won promotion to the Premier Division, but it was during his time at St Pat’s that he really made his name as one of the country’s best goalkeepers.
“I think I turned a corner there under Pete Mahon and Brian O’Shea; they were a big help to me. I had a rough time in my first year at the club, it didn’t go so well for me, but having those setbacks along the way, they can make you stronger as a goalkeeper I think.
“Since then, I think I’ve really pushed on and become a lot more consistent. I suppose I probably look at it in terms of how many mistakes you make during a season and thankfully I don’t make too many.
“I think I’ve become a better goalkeeper and, here in Sligo, changed my approach, playing it out from the back more. My distribution, I’d say, has certainly improved.”
Off the pitch, he has been planning for the future, studying on line for a degree in sports management, a course organised in part by the players’ union. He’s not quite clear about where it might lead but feels the qualification will stand to him when the time comes.
That’s a bit further down the line, with the Meathman having signed up last week for at least another year at the Showgrounds. Quite who will be managing the team remains up in the air at the moment as Ian Baraclough seems to be checking out his options in England.
Tomorrow, then, could be the Englishman’s send off in which case Sligo might have that little bit of added incentive to ensure it’s a good day. Rogers, though, won’t need the extra motivation. His old team-mate, Fabio, might just have taken care of that.