A DUBLIN native but now an adopted son of Sligo, former Ireland U21 cap Aaron Greene is still beaming after he picked up his third FAI Cup winner's medal with the Bit O'Red.
But while bonfires blazed across various parts of Sligo last night as Rovers made their way home from Dublin with the Cup on board, Greene had thoughts for the team-mates who are now out of work and he believes it's time for League of Ireland football to end the practice of only handing out short-term contracts and start rewarding the players.
Tallaght man Greene has played for Dublin sides Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers but he's truly at home in Sligo, now an adopted son of the place, and the value of the team's win in Sunday's dramatic Cup final really hit home once the squad got past the M50 yesterday.
"It was very emotional after the game, but there was even more emotion the day after as we realised just how much this all meant to people. I have played for Dublin clubs, I was with Bohs and Shamrock Rovers, but I think an FAI Cup win means so much more to the people in a place like Sligo," Greene told the Herald.
"We left the Clarion Hotel in Dublin yesterday morning and we had a convoy of 30 cars following us all the way west, you just don't get something like that with a Dublin club.
"We made the first stop in Carrick-on-Shannon after we left Dublin, we enjoyed a pint there, but there were a few stops lined up after that, we had to drop off with the Cup in Boyle, Riverstown, Collooney and then back to the Showgrounds in Sligo.
"When we won the Cup with Paul Cook we made eight stops on the way home and it took us 12 hours to get to Sligo, but these are the journeys you enjoy. Times are tough in the economy now and people don't have spare cash for trips and hotels and things like that, but the Sligo fans all came up to Dublin for the final in big numbers and, as players, we feel honoured to have repaid them with the win."
The winger is one of only a handful of Sligo players – or LOI players in general for that matter – with a secure future as he is under contract for next season, and the 22-year-old is so settled in Sligo that he's hopeful of engaging in talks to extend that deal, but Greene knows that the future prospects of his fellow pros is a concern.
"Every club needs to be tying down players, the whole issue of one-year contracts is scary for everyone involved," Greene admits. "I am fortunate to have the security of a contract for next year as I have a family to provide for, but you look at so many players around the league who have kids but who don't have contracts. The Gary O'Neill situation this year has made everyone worry because what have you got to fall back on?
"Clubs around the league have to realise that you don't want the likes of Mark Quigley and Jason McGuinness leaving. I know I chose to leave Sligo and join Shamrock Rovers last year and it probably wasn't right for me to leave, I know that now," added Greene, who had an unhappy time with the Hoops in his native Tallaght and rejoined Sligo at the start of this season.
"If you want success you have to build, and you can't just go from year to year. I know that the finances in the league are not great, but it's wrong that players will just go from club to club, you have a year at Pats, then go to Bray for a year and then move on to Derry.
"I have played for four clubs and I am only 22, that's not right. If we want to get the best from the players and to improve the league, we need to have a longer-term view. If we have this Sligo squad in place again next season, and if Ian Baraclough and Gary Stevens stay on to manage us, we could have a right go at it next season."
Greene was one of Sligo's walking wounded after the game as he suffered a torn hamstring and was replaced by Ross Gaynor for the final six minutes of normal time. "We had a few of us struggling, I was gone with my hamstring, Gavin Peers was gone off with his knee, Jeff Henderson had a dead leg. Gavin wanted to know if he could stay on the pitch and use his crutches, he is such a warrior, but that's what we have in our team," says Greene.