THEY were in the Champions League only two years ago but Sligo Rovers are now in crisis after a bizarre stand-off over their managerial position came to a head last night as Owen Heary poured scorn on a club statement which claimed that he had stepped down as boss.
The first team are in action today, away to Bray Wanderers, but off-field events have put Sligo under the spotlight in the last 24 hours.
Last night, just as the five Premier Division games were kicking off, the club issued a statement saying they "reluctantly wish to confirm that Owen Heary has stepped down as First Team Manager and departed the club".
Informed sources had stated that Heary was sacked by the club three weeks ago, after a 5-1 loss to Shamrock Rovers, and Heary was not in the dugout for their following game, at home to champions Dundalk, though his exit was never confirmed by either party.
It's thought that the club had planned to axe Heary after the Rovers loss, the latest defeat in a disappointing start to their league season but were unable to afford the pay-off which Heary was due under the terms of his contract.
Heary remained on effective gardening leave as his legal adviser and the club tried to agree on an exit, with coaches Gavin Dykes and Joseph Ndo preparing the side for today's game in Bray.
But the club statement last night took everyone by surprise, especially Heary who was on live TV at the time it was issued, covering the St Pats-Longford Town game for Setanta Sports.
"I never stepped down," Heary said last night. "That's the first I have heard of the statement, I was sacked three weeks ago, there were ongoing discussions but they have decided to put out a statement now."
Sligo have won just one of their last nine league games and are just above the relegation zone.