IN the end it was a result that the majority would have taken beforehand but, once again, a 2-2 draw felt like a defeat after City threw away another advantage late on.
Sligo Rovers look, in every department, like potential league champions but the fact City were two ahead with 25 minutes to play will have meant the overriding feeling was disappointment on the long trip home.
Yet there was little doubt that Tommy Dunne’s men were up against the classiest outfit in the league. Granted, it was another infuriating draw but to maintain the unbeaten run in the most difficult place to get a result is no mean feat.
As a team, Sligo are full of class. Even when fatigued following their exploits in Europe three days before, the produced some delightful passages of play at times and it was down to the heroics of Danny Murphy and some great saves from Mark McNulty that City came home with a point.
With several flair-players – Pascal Millien was the standout on Sunday and that was in a team that didn’t even include the injured Joseph Ndo – they are, at present, the most attractive team on the island.
Yet it was the club away from the field that left a lasting impression.
The Bit O’Red are one of few sides, along with Cork and Derry, that has a sense of identity within its wider vicinity.
On every street there is a flag or sign with the club crest, plenty highlighting the next home game, while many entrances to the town’s popular hostelries have posters.
In one bar on Saturday night, a group of men participated in a heated argument over Rovers’ 3-1 defeat in Slovakia on the previous Thursday.
Would you see the same in other towns with clubs?
Certainly they’d be harder to come across.
With no hurling or rugby and an arguably slighter interest in Gaelic football than plenty of other counties, Sligo is allowed to become further immersed in its local side.
Seeing as it is a town with a population of less than 19,500 according to the latest census, being able to attract an average crowd of near 3,000 is an impressive ratio which outshines the rest of the clubs in the country.
The well-worn debate of dilution due to there being too many clubs in Dublin is exacerbated by the story of Sligo.
For those of you who have never been, it is a town – or ‘city’ as it is bizarrely advertised as on a proportion of signposts around the area – which, without this intending to be taken the wrong way, is quite detached and isolated.
Everywhere seems like a good drive away, with the hushing and stares on entry to one particular establishment an instant acknowledgement that we’ve crossed into someone else’s turf.
While not quite reaching the levels of a South Park-esque ‘we don’t take kindly to your kind around here,’ there is an element of a very slight insularity amongst a proportion of the town’s inhabitants.
A siege mentality, if you will, where not too dissimilar from the Cork sporting mindset, it is very much a case of us versus them.
That, no doubt, contributes greatly to a passionate fanbase.
Yeah, it’s easy to be fervent and get behind a team that is enjoying life on the top of the table and steering towards a first title since 1977 when the current champions are crumbling to pieces, but the clubs that have a visible presence outside of a matchnight are few and far between in the league and it’s something Sligo do fantastically considering the resources at their disposal.
For most clubs, struggling on the precipice of the slippery slopes of Irish sport, having such a large role in their local community is often the dream.
Sligo Rovers revel in the fact that their club is at the heart of a ‘soccer town’, places that, sadly, are far too rare on the island in terms of the precedence the game has against its competitors.
And even though the club are charging a very cheeky €25 for their Europa League qualifier second leg with Slovakia’s Spartak Trnava this coming Thursday, they’re still expecting a record attendance with the opening of their new stand.
Unsurprisingly many of those tickets were bought before their first leg defeat but the point remains a valid one – the club is part of the town, it’s not something that’s on the peripheries of the wider community.
Instead, it’s at the epicentre – everybody in Sligo knows about Rovers, they’re impossible to ignore.
If we would say the same for all of the other clubs, take Dundalk and Monaghan as prime examples, would the troubles within the domestic game be as bad?