Lewis Banks has signed a new contract with Sligo Rovers for the 2021 season, the club are delighted to announce today.
The 23-year-old will enter a third season with the Bit O’ Red, having won the club’s Player of the Year in 2019 and helped Rovers to fourth place in the league this year, our highest since 2013.
Banks’ season was hindered by a persistent injury at the start of the season but he ended up missing just six games overall in the campaign.
“I’m over the moon to get it across the line. We can look forward to 2021. My first year went well and it was a very long period out. I didn’t come back fit enough to play at the start of the season. I was always playing catch-up then later in the season and some of the games didn’t go as well as I’d like.
“But I felt towards the end of the season I got some form back. The season came to an end just as I felt I was getting back to form but there is that positive to take into next year now.
“The pandemic came while I was injured. It was obviously hard for everyone. The break did work well for us in relation to getting players back and get myself near to where I played games. When I came back to Ireland I had to quarantine so the pre-season was just a week or so. I missed the Derry and Shels games and then I played 30 minutes and gradually got back into it.
“There is a small part that wishes it wasn’t over, but it was a long season. Hopefully I can take my form now into next season and kick on with the team. ”
Rovers did turn around their season following the restart, reaching the FAI Cup semi-final and winning eight of the 14 league games remaining.
“When something like it happens it can bring you together, and especially the way we were almost written off as we came back in July. That may have spurred us on. We came back stronger and finished the season well.
“Our approach was just take on each game. We were rock bottom with no points. Europe wasn’t mentioned, but we knew if we put a run together it would put us close to the top half.”
The final day of the season was the defeat to Shamrock Rovers, a game in which Banks stood out as one of the top performers for Liam Buckley’s side on the day.
It was a second loss at the semi-final stages for Banks, so while Europe is on the horizon, there is an incentive to get better.
“We’d much rather have won the game and still be in Ireland, preparing for Sunday’s FAI Cup final, but it wasn’t meant to be. To get Europe and finish on a high, it does motivate you when you think we’ve lost two semi-finals now in the last two seasons.
“That heartbreak and hurt can motivate us to go one or two better. We might have paid them a bit too much respect in the first 20 minutes and sat off them a bit. We certainly showed at the end of the first half and in the second half that we can compete with the top teams.
“Europe was mentioned when I first signed. I’m really excited and so are my friends and my family. They are looking forward to a European trip and not just one I hope. It’s something to look forward to because you’ll back on your career think I did play in some country that you wouldn’t normally play in. It’s a thing to look forward to.
“You have to try to improve season on season. If we don’t improve teams will improve and catch us up. That’s the challenge for us as players and the whole club, not just settle for fourth.”
Banks was one of the players from outside of Ireland who was not able to return home since coming back to Sligo in July.
“It was tough at times, but there was obviously a few of us who were the same. I was living with Darragh Noone and Ryan DeVries. Ryan was in a similar situation with his family back home in New Zealand.
“Luckily with technology you could FaceTime and whatnot which meant it wasn’t too bad.”
Manager Liam Buckley said: “Lewis is another important part of the squad. He was our player of the year in 2019.
“The injury hampered him a bit this season, and particularly with the disrupted calendar, so when we get a complete pre-season into him next year, I feel we’ll see the very best of him again.
“He was still able to make an important contribution this season. I have no doubt he can be a big player for us in 2021. We’re delighted to have him on the board.”