Ventre hoping new deal will put silver lining on Cup success
DANNY VENTRE spent his first winter as a Sligo Rovers player back at home in Liverpool with no money to do anything, swearing that he would never return.
"And I'm here six years later," he smiles. Paul Cook talked him around on that occasion and Ventre has grown to love his adopted home.
But there is an ominous familiarity about what is coming down the tracks when the evenings draw in and contracts run out. He'll never warm to that feeling – an uncertainty he is facing again when his deal expires after Sunday's FAI Cup final with Drogheda.
Ventre, as the resident Englishman, informed his new boss Ian Baraclough about the peculiarities of the Irish off-season when the rookie manager landed on these shores and former England international Gary Stevens – who took up the post of assistant manager this year – is coming to terms with the reality that footballers don't get paid 52 weeks a year in this part of the world.
"I was speaking to Gary and he's scratching his head and thinking, 'How do players live?' because he hasn't seen it yet," says the 27-year-old.
"I explained it to Ian last year, that this is what happens. Lads get frustrated. You could lose half your team. Lads have to go and find some sort of income and if another club offers a contract, lads dive at it. They have to.
"Now, I don't have kids but the lads with families, they have to support them. One of those players could be your main player but he'll go if it means feeding his family. It's the norm in the League of Ireland, but that's where we are."
For the teak-tough midfielder, there is nothing novel about preparing for a cup final without any idea what's coming afterwards.
Sunday will see Sligo Rovers play in the cup final for the fourth time in five years. Heartbreaking defeat to Sporting Fingal in 2009 was followed by Aviva joy via penalties against Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne in 2010 and 2011 respectively. This year means a lot to Ventre given that last winter was his darkest since 2007 because a stress fracture meant that the Bit O'Red waited until he proved his fitness before re-signing him. The season was already under way when he put pen to paper.
"I was struggling a bit financially," he recalls. "I've got family around who helped me out but Sligo were true to their word. They said, 'If you get the all-clear we'll sign you on and your contract is the same'. It was a relief really but then I got injured again in June – the same injury.
"Sligo helped me out. They're not a club that would leave you to rot, but I can see it from their point of view. How can they pay someone who has come back injured?"
The club have yet to open discussions with Ventre about 2014.
"I've not heard a single thing," he says. "I hope Sligo come to me because I love the place but maybe it could be my last game. I'd give Sligo the first option, but if not (no offer) then I'll move on."
His sense of frustration is obvious, although Rovers did make progress last week by tying down Gavin Peers and Gary Rogers for another year.
"It's good to see but it's just two lads," he says. "Two lads aren't going to win the league."
Ventre was speaking before it was confirmed last night that Seamus Conneely and Jeff Henderson had also been retained for next season.
The Liverpool lad is unsure if expectations are realistic in the Connacht town, conscious of the grumbles that accompanied a third-place finish in the league this term, yet he feels there is a real desire in the dressing room to do better next year if the group sticks together. But that's all hypothetical talk in the circumstances.
He will have 16 friends and family over in Dublin on Sunday, for a date they mark in the calendar every year as they're so accustomed to the routine, and he's determined to savour the experience, come what may afterwards.
"These are the days you'll never forget," he says. "And the lads you spend them with, you'll never forget them either."
A successful 90 minutes on Sunday would add another special Sligo day to the Ventre memory bank. But he also needs to make sure that he's not the forgotten man when the dust settles on another big day out.