It was another busy week of transfer activity in the SSE Airtricity League as clubs start to shape their squad for the 2019 season. Indeed some are already back in pre-season with others having started gym sessions. But for me there was one move that stood out above all. In an era where the word legend is used oh so cheaply, a true one departed the Showgrounds.
Raffaele Cretaro brought the curtain down on his third spell with Sligo Rovers after 17 seasons with his local club. Cretaro made his debut for the club in 2000 and left in 2006 to sign for Galway United. He returned in 2007 and left again in 2010 to join Bohemians FC but came back in 2011. The man nicknamed the ‘Tubbercurry Tornado’ then broke the club’s league appearance record last season and is second on the all-time list to only Tony Fagan.
And he is following in Fagan’s footsteps as he has signed with newly promoted Finn Harps for 2018 citing the switch to part-time football as one of the primary reasons for the move. He leaves having won the Premier Division, First Division, two FAI Cups and the Setanta Sports Cup. He was recognised by Rovers for his service when he was awarded a testimonial last season.
I was one of the organisers and was delighted to play my part in helping one of the club’s greatest servants. He was paid numerous tributes during this testimonial and also last week by the club. When he finally retires I will do a proper retrospective on Raff and his career. But for the moment I would just like to say I was honoured to see him play but more honoured to call him a friend.
Cretaro was one of three players who left Showgrounds during the week. Winger Adam Wixted returning to Drogheda United after a season away. Drogheda, like Shelbourne, have been busy putting together a strong squad as they look to gain promotion back to the Premier Division. They also signed Thomas Byrne who like Wixted previously played for the club before. He had been playing with St. Patrick’s Athletic last season.
It was St. Pat’s who signed the last of the three players to leave Rovers as they brought in striker Mikey Drennan. The loss of the former Aston Villa and Shamrock Rovers player comes as a huge blow to Rovers as he had been expected to sign on for another season. They also brought in midfielder Brandon Miele from Shamrock. Harry Kenny is effectively going about his business.