Sligo Rovers and Ian Baraclough made an early statement of intent today with the announcement of the re-signing of Raffaele Cretaro and the capture of midfield ace Paul O’Conor from Drogheda United.
Having scored a goal yet suffered heartache in the FAI Cup final only a matter of weeks ago, O’Conor joins that day’s victors Sligo Rovers on a one year deal as the Sligo hierarchy go about trying to win back the Premier Division crown they surrendered to St Pats.
In what will probably prove to be one of the headline signings of the off-season, Extratime.ie caught up with the much coveted O’Conor who revealed that signing for the Bit O’Red was one of the easier decisions he has had to make.
“A move to Sligo Rovers doesn’t take any convincing. I met Ian, we had a good conversation and thankfully he gave me a day to think it over.
“After our meeting I signed two days later so there was no real hesitation on my part. Once I had the chat with Ian, I was sure I was going to be making the right decision by signing with Sligo Rovers.”
Had he needed it, advice was on hand from former UCD colleagues David and Evan McMillan, and though he discussed it with the pair O’Conor insists that there was no need for persuading.
“Of course I spoke to them, I’d still keep in contact with the pair of them. But it wasn’t really something that I needed too much talking into, because everyone knows how big a club Sligo Rovers is. Once I heard they were interested I was very keen to play for them.
“I did speak to them of course, but to be honest I probably already had my mind made up.”
The 26-year old midfielder first made his name at UCD where he proved to be the fulcrum in a Martin Russell team that was highly praised for their attractive brand of football.
It was obvious that O’Conor enjoyed playing the ball on the deck, and this was to be seen again while at Hunky Dory’s Park this season.
It is no surprise then, that style of play is something that was an important factor in O’Conor’s albeit swift decision.
“For the last couple of years everybody has been impressed with the style of play of Sligo Rovers. It is very easy on the eye and it is certainly something that I was attracted to.
“When I heard that he was interested, I knew the type of football that he would be playing and it was something that I certainly wanted to be a part of.
“They get the ball down, they’re very good with the ball, they like to play a possession game and they’re extremely hard to beat – which I’ve obviously learnt over the last few seasons.
“They play a very attractive style of football and I am very excited to be a part of that.”
Signing for the Bit O’Red will also see the playmaker’s return to European action, but this is far from O’Conor’s thoughts at the moment.
“That was probably one of the best experiences of my life, being part of a European game. Obviously having that experience from this year with Drogheda, I can’t wait to get into European football again.
“But it’s at the back of the mind at the moment. There’s a long way to go before that. I’ve a big pre-season ahead of me and my only focus at the moment is to make sure I get back and keep fit and I’m looking forward to the start of the league campaign.”
With more signings / re-signings expected at the Showgrounds in the coming days, and players driving up and down the country (and flying to England) trying to get contracts sorted – O’Conor was delighted to get his own situation sorted out so soon in the off season.
“It’s a massive relief, there is no other way of describing it. I wouldn’t wish the off season on anyone. The uncertainty of it is one of the toughest things to go through as a League of Ireland footballer.
“People are genuinely waiting for a phone call that mightn’t come.
“I was lucky enough this year that I got a call early on, straight after the season finished and I signed it quickly. Other players mightn’t be as lucky as that so I was delighted to put pen to paper so early.
“The longer it goes on, the worse feeling you have and it’s not something I enjoy but League of Ireland players have learned to get used to it. When it comes to the off-season it can be a bit of a merry-go-round.”
Drogheda United are in the unenviable position of losing three cup finals in 2012. With his move west, Sligo Rovers’ newest star is keen to finally get some silverware on his mantelpiece and is looking forward to relocating to Sligo after Christmas.
“It’s not a record I’m going to be boasting about.
“When you come to Sligo, they expect trophies at the end of the season and that’s exactly why we’re in the game. I want to be winning trophies. It’s great to be in finals obviously, but it’s about going that one step further and lifting a trophy.
“I want to have that feeling and I hope I can play a huge part in bringing some trophies to Sligo this year.”