THE LAST TIME Sligo Rovers got off to such a positive start to the season, the Irish Constitution was being introduced and Eamon de Valera was preparing for his appointment as Taoiseach.
The Bit o’ Red sit three points clear of their nearest rivals and have won five league matches in a row since their opening day draw with Shelbourne – their best start since 1937.
Striker Raffaele Cretaro, now in his third spell with his local club, has experienced fallow periods and the joys of FAI Cup success but has targeted a domestic treble this season.
“The ambition this year is to win everything,” he told The Score. “We had that attitude in pre-season, when we won all of our games, and we have taken that into the league. The winning mentality is there and, personally speaking, I want to win every competition we are in.”
Such lofty ambitions may have been scoffed at when Rovers lost manager Paul Cook in the build-up for the new season. Ian Baraclough’s transition into the senior coaching role has been relatively seamless and Sligo look likely to being Shamrock Rovers main challengers for the title. Cretaro commented:
We have done very well but we’re not getting too carried away. We have not played Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s or Derry yet. Still, we have done exactly what has been asked of us and collected points. We know that if you are within touching distance of Rovers near the end, you’ll have had a good season.
St Patrick Athletic’s 5-1 victory over the champions has served notice to the rest of the league but Cretaro, who opened his scoring account last week against Bray Wanderers, is confident that Sligo has the squad to put in a sustained challenge.
A miserly defence
The Tubercurry native says he is more than happy to play the role of the withdrawn forward, supporting Danny North.
While the diamond formation is prospering up front, Sligo’s mean-spirited defenders have continued on with the form that brought them successive cup wins and second place in the league last year. Cretaro said:
We had the best defensive record last year and Brendan Clarke kept nine clean sheets in a row. It was his decision to leave as his partner was expecting but we have done well to get Gary (Rogers) in from St Pat’s. He has carried us in a couple of games and made some fantastic saves to keep us in it against Dundalk.
Cretaro expects Haitian international Pascal Millien impending arrival to strengthen the squad and warns that Derry, despite the transfers of stars such as James McClean, are a dangerous outfit.
“You know what you will get with Derry,” he said, “they are a quality side that will be looking to bounce back after a couple of disappointing results.”
* Sligo Rovers face Derry at 7.05pm on Friday, April 13.