PAJO Rafferty is loving life playing football in the Ulster Senior League for home town club Letterkenny Rovers following spells in the Donegal League with Glencar Celtic and Drumoghill FC.
The Glencar man is back playing Intermediate football after a fifteen year break during which time, by his own admission, he was too busy living life to the full to worry about playing ball.
The popular 33-year-old striker moved to Leckview Park at the start of the season and is enjoying his new surroundings.
Rafferty first caught the eye as a talented teenage striker in the USL with Drumkeen United before drifting away from sport.
“Not for one second.”
Married to Mary Duddy, the couple have two children Aoibhe and Erin. Pajo works in Brian McCormick Sports and life is good.
“There’s no point dwelling on the past and wondering what might have happened if I did this or did that. I appreciate things a lot more nowadays and I’m really enjoying my football,” he said.
Rafferty is playing well for Letterkenny Rovers and was part of the Ulster Senior League squad that contested the Inter-League competition earlier in the season.
He scored two goals for the club in their recent 3-2 FAI Intermediate Cup win at home to Cork side Middleton. Next up is a visit to Elmdale Crescent and a clash with Cherry Orchard, a game that will take place on Sunday January 21.
The Dublin club is well known for its youth system which has successfully produced many players who have gone on to represent the Republic of Ireland at various international levels. But the Rovers striker isn’t fazed.
“I don’t know too much about them but a good history counts for nothing. It’s all about who wants it more on the day,” he said.
Quick over the ground, Rafferty wouldn’t be your conventional number nine but he’s enjoying pitting his wits against the best defenders in the county.
“Eamon (McConigley, Rovers manager) came looking for me last year and he rang me again this year but I didn’t plan on playing at all. I’m 33 and will be 34 before the season ends so I thought I might sneak away for it all without too much fuss,” he explained.
“It’s enjoyable playing with and against good teams and players week in, week out though. Nine out of ten times if I make a run into space the ball will drop into my path as they’re all quality players who can see a pass,” he added.
“I was a bit of a lazy player when I was younger as I’m sure Noel Malseed (Glencar United manager) will tell you. Listen, I was 18 and going out the night before games. I suppose I was a bit of a head-case if truth be told. It took me a long time to mature,” he laughed.
Looking forward to the remainder of the season, Rafferty said that bringing an Ulster Senior League title to Leckview Park was his main priority.
Rovers reached the final of the Intermediate Cup a few years back and, although well beaten on the day, the players got the opportunity to play at the Aviva Stadium.
“Don’t get me wrong a good cup run would be nice too but the league is our main target,” he said.
Training on Tuesday and Thursday nights had been problematic in the build up to the busy Christmas shopping period but he’s looking forward to getting back into action when the season resumes with a game away to Fanad on Sunday next, January 7th.
Winner of a Donegal League title with Drumoghill FC in 2015, he was also part of the Moss squad who finished runners-up in the Donegal League in both ‘14 and ‘16. Before that he won silverware playing Saturday football with Glencar.
The son of the late Martin Rafferty, he has four brothers Dwyer, Kevin – a former Donegal GAA midfielder, Fergal and Declan and one sister Aine, who is also a former underage Donegal GAA footballer. His mum Marie still lives in Glencar.
“I played a bit of Gaelic too but as I said earlier I enjoyed the craic too much,” he smiled.
“I didn’t really care that much and playing Saturday League football meant that things weren’t that serious,” he said.
To quote former Liverpool manager Bill Shankley: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
“Not at all but I think I can now see where he was coming from,” Pajo smiled.
With that, he’s off back to his work in the knowledge that the countdown to the resumption of the Ulster Senior League season is down to less than a week.
Rovers can take comfort in the fact that they will have home advantage and that the Dubliners will have...