Richard Brush has signed for Sligo Rovers this morning, 15 years on from his first spell with the club.
The 36-year-old goalkeeper has become a Rovers player for the fourth time, coming full circle in his career in Ireland.
Brush spent four years with the club during the early years of the Paul Cook era, including the 2010 FAI Cup winning season.
He returned for the 2012 campaign as the Bit O’ Red won the league title.
The Birmingham-born goalkeeper, who settled in Sligo since first moving over, was back for a third occasion in 2014.
Now, after a very successful spell in Northern Ireland, Brush admits signing back in Sligo means a lot to him.
“I really could not have predicted this from when I first signed all those years ago, never. To be honest even five years ago I didn’t see this happening. I’m chuffed, that’s how it feels.
“It’s really nice. To be back now and be here to guide some of the young players as well, it’s just a good feeling.
“In the last spell the club was going through a tough period and that golden era we had was in the past.
“Today it feels like the club is really on the up and the good times could be coming back. So apart from being chuffed, I’m also excited to be part of that now.
“It is huge for me to win another trophy and experience more European football. I’m coming towards the end of my career and I want as many good experiences as possible.
“To this day I get people still coming up to me in the street in Sligo talking about this game and that or whatever it is.
“You know names, some of them are just faces you see, but you know what the club means here. I feel honoured to be wanted as well and that the gaffer and the club wanted to bring me in.
“I am here to play. You train to play and while I know Ed has done really well, I’m signing with a view to getting into the team. I’m under no illusions. Every goalkeeper knows there’s someone else wanting to get in. I worked with Ed briefly two years ago so I know what he’s about and his charisma and ability.
“Goalkeepers tend to be close to each other because they work together every day, and 95% of the experiences I’ve had that has been the case. I know there’s also one or twovery good talented young goalkeepers too who will train with us which is great.”
Brush described his time in Northern Ireland as memorableand that he looks back on the time in the Irish League as some of the best years of his career.
“It’s funny that we have two leagues on the island and somehow they are so different to each other. That is not taking away one from the other, they both have their good points.
“In Northern Ireland they are a few years behind the league down here in terms of going full-time. But I really can’t speak highly enough of playing in the Irish League.
“I’m not a big football fan, what brings me coming back to football is the people around it. They are the most genuine and decent you can meet and that matters most to me.
“I had that in Ballinamallard and Cliftonville and the people at the clubs, you just want to do well for them as much as anything. I think, at this stage of my career, coming back to Sligo Rovers is just one thing I had to say yes to because of my history with the club.
“At Cliftonville we had some big games, won the Shield and European games. It’s a fantastic club and I’ve grateful to everyone for the last couple of years.”
Brush will begin pre-season on Thursday with his new team-mates, now as the veteran of the squad, and alongside some familiar faces such as David Cawley and John Russell.
He concluded: “It’ll be nice to walk in the gate again as a Sligo Rovers player and see everyone. Now that I’ve signed, it’s about getting through pre-season and trying to start well.
“Like I said, I’m not back for sentimentality. We’ll have a squad here who can achieve things and we’re going to give it a right go from the first day.”
Liam Buckley said: “When it was decided for Luke to go on loan, Richard was the first name that came to mind. He’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the two leagues for many years.
“We don’t sign anyone with a view to a guaranteed starting place. It’s the drive of competing against each other which will help us succeed and that is what we want. Ed and Richard will compete for the jersey. I’ve spoken about how we rate Luke, but this is a different type of pressure for Ed now because his competition is someone who has been doing it for 15 years.
“We feel they will bring the best out of each other and push each other as well. There’ll be a respect there too of course. Overall we’re very pleased to bring in Richard. He has a great affinity with the people here too and I think he’s going to be a very good addition to the group.
“We’re aiming to finish the squad soon, it may go into pre-season because of Covid protocols, transfer windows and whatever else. It would be our intention to try to finish the squad soon but it will take as long it takes.”
Meanwhile, Luke McNicholas has joined Finn Harps on a half-season loan deal.
McNicholas signed a new two-year contract last week. He has been number two goalkeeper at The Showgrounds for the last 18 months.
The 21-year-old expressed a desire to play games this season, having been limited while Ed McGinty has been in the Rovers goal, and manager Liam Buckley and the club have agreed to the request.
McNicholas has been with the club for six years.
Buckley said: “Luke has pushed Ed for the number one jersey since Mitch Beeney left in mid-2019. Ed managed to get in there first and they’ve been competing for the last year and a half. They are two top-class goalkeepers.
“Luke came to us privately in the off-season about his desire to play games. He turned 21 this month and we understand his wishes. We didn’t want to lose Luke because we really rate him.
“We’ve managed to bring in Richard and that will allow Luke to go out on loan to Finn Harps. It’s a good move for everyone.
“We know Luke will go out and show his ability. The future is not known so when Luke comes back we don’t what the landscape will be. We’re hoping he comes back with more experience and all the better for this spell with Finn Harps.”
McNicholas said: “I’m very happy and I’m looking forward to the opportunity at Finn Harps. I want to play first-team football. Harps are a Premier Division club so it was the offer that appealed most to me.
“I know Ollie as I played under him with Ireland at schools level, he is a very good manager and someone I can trust as well.
“There will be competition at Finn Harps but I think I can show what I can do and get into the team. That’s my target.
“I’m thankful for the gaffer and the club accommodating the move, it’s gone smoothly. I’m looking forward to getting going now.”