Michael Rafter makes no secret of his desire to return in the red and white of Derry City next season and despite being offered a new deal by the Board of Directors, the 21 year-old Tipperary man has opted to wait and see who will succeed Declan Devine as Derry City manager.
Rafter, helped Derry to a crucial 6-0 win over Limerick on the final day of the season. The result effectively guaranteed the ‘Candy Stripes’ a place in next season’s Europa League competition.
“I’d probably say the 6-0 win over Limerick was the highlight of the season for me,” said Rafter.
“There was a lot of pressure on us going into that game. Thankfully we got the result and then Sligo Rovers did us a massive favour when they beat Drogheda United in the FAI Cup final in Dublin at the start of the month,” he said.
Rafter has since returned home to Tipperary where he is earning a living by working on a farm.
“I still go to the gym every single day but like a good ole culchee I am I am taking a few shifts at a farm here in Tipperary. The bills aren’t going to pay themselves,” he said laughing.
Rafter arrived at the Brandywell from Dundalk at the beginning of last season and his goal scoring record speaks for itself.
“If I am completely honest with you I think 12 goals from 19 starts isn’t bad. Maybe others think differently. I was pleased with how I played but I would have liked to have played more games,” he said honestly.
Rafter said he felt frustrated and disappointed not to have been playing more games during the middle of the season and added that playing more first team football will be a major factor when deciding where he will be playing next season.
“I’ve already had a few clubs from the League of Ireland enquire about me and a few clubs from England have offered me the chance to go over there on trial but I would love to be back at the Brandywell next season.
“I’ve a lot of friends up there. I’ve known Shane and Patrick McEleney for ages and playing in the same team as them is absolutely brilliant.
“I absolutely love the Derry City fans too. They sing a song - I am not quite sure how it goes -every time I score and it’s just a great feeling.
“The Derry City fans were really supportive of me in my first year and I would love the opportunity to be able to repay them by scoring goals again next season.”
Rafter has no idea who will replace Declan Devine as manager but he said that once the new manager has been unveiled he would hope to receive a phone-call.
“A lot can happen when a new manager comes in. Just because one manager likes you doesn’t mean the rest of them will.
“I would hope that I would get a phone-call from the new boss when he is unveiled. I’ve no idea who or when that might be, but I hope that he can see a place for me in his first team squad.”
Rafter was signed by Declan Devine last season and when asked for his thoughts on the former Derry boss’ departure he said he was sad to see anyone lose their job.
“You never like to see anyone lose their job because there are some things like providing for a family that are much more important than football.
“I had a bit of an idea that something was going to happen but like I said, you never like to see anyone losing their job.
“I am reading Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography at the moment. I regard Sir. Alex as the greatest manager of all time and even he made mistakes.
“Declan and Paul Hegarty probably made mistakes too but they are two top men - they were great to play under,” he said.
“I didn’t play under Declan during his first season in charge at Derry City but when you step back and look at what he achieved in two seasons you have to say it’s not bad.
“He secured European football two seasons in a row, got them to two cup finals and won one of them - it’s not bad is it?.”
Many would agree that Rafter is the type of centre-forward who abounds in confidence and despite the uncertainty over his future, his self belief was just as strong when he spoke to the ‘Sunday Journal’ from his Tipperary home yesterday afternoon.
“It’s as simple as this, once I start scoring goals it takes a lot to make me stop.
“I enjoy nothing more in football than finding the back of the net. It’s something that I know I can do and I think I proved to the Derry City fans that I could do that last season.
“I’ve heard that the fans expect to find out who the new manager is over the next few weeks so like I’ve already said, hopefully once the dust settles, he gives me call and tells me where he sees me fitting into his plans for Derry City next season.”