Quigley celebrates scoring on Saturday.
League champions

‘It was like a script… It couldn’t have happened any better’ – Mark Quigley

The Sligo Rovers striker says scoring the penalty to win the Premier Division for the Bit O’Red was a “surreal” experience.

IT SOUNDS LIKE something from Roy of the Rovers.

Star striker scores late penalty against his former team and nearest rivals to clinch his first league title in front of thousands of home fans, who have been 35 years in the waiting.

For Mark Quigley, a moment he’d dreamt about, having been a nearly-man on a number of occasions, became reality.

On Saturday, Sligo Rovers were crowned Airtricity League Premier Division champions and the Dubliner proved to be the hero – coolly slotting home the decisive spot-kick after the Bit O’Red had taken the lead only to be pegged back by a resilient Saints side in the thrilling 3-2 win.

When asked if it was the greatest moment of his footballing career, Quigley told TheScore: ”Definitely, especially how it ended. Scoring the winning penalty against my former team to win the league. It was perfect.

“It was like a script. I’ve watched it back since and the fans looked pretty nervous. I hasn’t really sunk in yet, it’s a bit surreal.

“It couldn’t have happened any better. There were nearly 6,000 fans there and the reaction on their faces was incredible.

As a football fan, it’s something you go through. They were biting the nails off their fingers. The fans deserve it as they’ve come in their numbers all season and supported us brilliantly.”

When Damien Hancock pointed to the spot there was only going to be one taker and Quigley says excitement rather than nervousness was the overwhelming feeling right before he converted past Barry Murphy.

“That’s the way I looked at it. I had it in my head that if I scored this penalty, we win the league. It wasn’t in a pressure way. I was excited to have that responsibility and couldn’t wait to take it.”

So with a third title wrapped up, celebrations have been in full flow in Sligo since Saturday. Quigley, who had promised his wife he would attend a play which is brother-in-law is featuring in, hasn’t had the chance to pop any bottles of champagne just yet but is looking forward to the end of the season.

“I came back and went to see my brother-in-law in a play (on Saturday night). It’s been getting great reviews and was probably the best one I’ve ever seen.

“I’ll be hitting Sligo soon though. After the Shamrock Rovers game, it will be a really good weekend… Well I’m planning to have one!”

Danny North, who played a big part in a campaign which has seen Sligo beaten just once in the league, has been out of action since rupturing his cruciate ligament back in July. And Quigley adds that he feels particularly sympathetic for the Grimsby forward.

“I felt a little sorry for the injured lads and expecially Danny. He’s been a big help and you don’t forget the contribution he has made through the season.

“I think he would have broken records and won the golden boot if he’d stayed fit. It’s a pity because I think our partnership was about to hit a bit of form.

“I’m not sure what the manager thinks but it’d be nice to get him on the pitch during the final game.

I don’t think any player has stood out for us. It’s the best team that wins the league, not the best players, and that’s what we’ve been.”

On manager Ian Baraclough, who has taken to Irish football like a duck to water in his first season, he said: “It’s unbelievable that he’s won a league on his first try. Not many can say they’ve done that.  He’s a good manager, is tactically very good and likes to play.”

Looking ahead, he is keen to win the remaining two games against Drogheda and Shamrock Rovers. What about beyond that?

“I’d love to win as many leagues as possible. I’m 26 so would like to win more and just perform at a high level. Hopefully I keep playing well and entertaining fans. I’d like to get a reputation for it.”

VIDEO: Here’s how Sligo Rovers clinched their first title in 35 years

Germany’s Reus aims to tame Swedes, Lahm says the Ireland match was ‘fun’