John Mahon has signed a new two-year contract with Sligo Rovers, the club are delighted to announce today.
The 20-year-old has committed his future to the Bit O’ Red for the 2021 and 2022 seasons and said he has come back with an even stronger purpose to bring success to Rovers and in his own career.
Mahon made his senior debut in April 2017 after playing for the Under-17 and Under-19 side having signed from Ballisodare United.
He was Young Player of the Year for the club in 2018, first-choice defender in 2019 and has played 64 matches for the senior Rovers team despite breaking his leg last February, an injury which ruled him out for eight and a half months.
Having returned to the team against Shelbourne earlier this month, he followed it up with another appearance on Saturday in the win over Cork City.
Today he signs a new deal, saying he is determined to make up for lost time.
“I’m very happy to sign today and have my future here. It hasn’t been the year I wanted it to be. The injury was very hard to take and I had to work hard to get back to playing. I was probably one of the few people who could take a positive from football being stopped because I knew it would give me a chance to get back and play in important games.
“Now that I am back, I just wanted it set in stone that I’ll be part of the club for two years. In the two years I want us to get to the next level. I have my ambitions to play at a higher level of course like any player and I have to go prove why I can, and in doing that I want to help the club go forward. I love playing for Rovers, I’m very proud to play for the club. I missed out on some football this year, I said it would make me stronger and I think it has done.”
Mahon was in the stands early in the season after the leg break on 1 February, admitting it was hard to be a spectator.
“I didn’t like it if I’m being honest. I wanted to be out there. That was at the beginning after the surgery. Covid-19 came along and football stopped. When it came back I was much closer to recovery so it made it easier. I have people to thank who help me in those months. My Mum is a nurse and was a great support, especially early on after the surgery.
“There was a time at 3am where I was getting pains and she brought me to hospital knowing it was the right thing, things like that. Mark Howley our strength and conditioning coach did lots of sessions with me then in the last few months and Colin (Feehily) got me gym equipment from The Showgrounds. I’m grateful to everyone who supported me during the time.
“I was back training in September and I thought I was flying to be honest. The manager wouldn’t put me in, he had injuries so I think he knows from experience. I wanted to play but looking at it now, I think he was right to wait until the Shelbourne match. You don’t want to pull up with a muscle injury because you aren’t completely ready to play a competitive game.”
There was still trepidation as Mahon took to the pitch against Shels, and they were heightened in early minutes as the defender had to put in a tackle when Ciaran Kilduff was about to score for Shels.
“It was the first few minutes and I played a ball that maybe I shouldn’t have as I was trying to settle back in. I had to make a tackle and it forced it I suppose, I made it and it was massive for me to be honest. That got rid of the nerves that I had. The Cork game last Saturday was just like back to normal so I feel I’m settled in again. I feel sharp. I want to show I’ve improved more even after the time out”
Mahon is indeed back for the climax of the Rovers season, including an FAI Cup quarter-final in mid-November against Derry City, where a win would bring at least one further game as well as the final league clash away to Dundalk.
“I love the FAI Cup. It was in my mind once I knew it was delayed because of Covid. I just wanted us to get to this stage so I know I would be back for it. The semi-final with Dundalk last year was a great occasion, it was the biggest game I’ve played for the club and it didn’t end as we wanted. I want to get to another semi-final and have another shot at reaching a final. We don’t have our supporters but we are trying to do it for them so it’s a massive game whenever it comes around.
“I don’t think things have fallen for us recently as they were doing when that great run we had happened. There’s a very good group of lads in the dressing-room and we have the chance to improve on last season in front of us still.”
The two-year deal will secure Mahon’s future at The Showgrounds, having previously had a two and a half year contract.
The security is important for the Collooney man, if much a challenge as anything else.
“You can’t predict what can happen as we saw in the last two and a bit years. There’s been great times and there’s been disappointments that are part of football too. I hope the next two years are going to be great ones for the club and myself. I have lots of ambitions in the next two seasons.”
Liam Buckley added: “We’re delighted to have John on board with us for two seasons. He’s a huge talent and already a fantastic defender for us. At 20 years of age he already has lots of experience and more to gain.
“We were patient with John coming back, we had to be and it will stand to him over time. I know what it is like with injuries and that you have to be patient, particularly one such as this.
“We were never going to take any chances with him. I believe he has a fantastic career ahead of him and over the next two years he has the opportunity to show us all what we can do.
“It’s another good bit of business and a real positive for ourselves for next season.”