Raffaele Cretaro is interviewed after the play-off by James O'Toole of RTE
One of the most popular and respected players in the League of Ireland has decided to finally call it a day.
Raffaele Cretaro has played his last senior game - and is hanging up the boots after going out on a winning note.
The Tubbercurry native, who celebrated his 38th birthday last month, played his part in helping Finn Harps to defeat Drogheda United 2-0 in Friday’s Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Final second leg to win 2-1 on aggregate.
It was a fitting conclusion to a great career that saw him become a real legend with Sligo Rovers - he played 531 games for the Bit o' Red - and he also had spells with Bohemians and Galway United.
“That was my first experience of playing in a play-off, and to get the win that we needed to stay in the Premier Division, well to be honest, you can’t go out on a better high than that," he said.
Last December Cretaro, after another season with Sligo, announced that he was ending his time with the club.
But Harps boss Ollie Horgan - seeing an opportunity - lured him out of retirement, just has he had done with Paddy McCourt and Barry Molloy in previous years.
“I always said I wanted to play for him (Horgan) and I said at the beginning of the season that I was not coming up here to make up numbers,” Cretara explained.
Indeed, Cretaro played 27 times for Harps and was instrumental in assisting the Donegal club to stay in the top tier.
Cretaro, who had a glittering career, added: “I’ve been lucky enough to experience both sides of the thing, at the top end of the Premier Division and winning it and winning FAI Cups. I’ve experienced the lows as well.
“For me, this is ultimately finishing off on a high,. I’ve really, really enjoyed the year, I’ve had up here with Harps and I’m grateful to Ollie (Horgan) for giving me the chance. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
“I knew I had a little bit left in the tank and I gave them everything I had this year to try and keep Harps up.”
And he was full of praise for his team-mates.
“You can see the character in the squad. Drogheda are a great side, and you have to give them credit. They've been flying all season and we knew going to them that it was going to be difficult for us.
“We managed to get away with a 1-0 defeat. We were relatively happy with that. We knew taking them back to Finn Park it was going to be a different story.
“We really hit them with pressure early in the game and it worked out well for us.”
Reflecting on how Harps had recovered from a dreadful start in the league - they were bottom for most of the season - he added: “It’s a collective thing. We had great character. There were young lads playing like Sam Todd who aren’t boys any more. They turned into men tonight. That will stand to them going forward."
Mark Russell and Harry Ascroft got the goals for Harps in Friday’s win to spark off huge celebrations in the home camp, while Drogheda must now prepare for another season in Division One.
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