McCourt on board as Harps open new league campaign this Friday

Thursday, 23 February 2017

McCourt on board as Harps open new league campaign this Friday thumbnailHarps new signing Paddy McCourt, left, with Finn Harps club secretary, John Campbell.

Finn Harps open their 2017 Premier League campaign this Friday night at Finn Park, Ballybofey with a visit from F.A.I. Cup winners and Premier League runners up, Cork City, with kick-off at 8pm.

It's going to be a big season for the club with new rules coming into effect next year which will see a ten team premier division as opposed to the current situation where you have 12 clubs in the top flight.

Harps however are going into the new season bolsters up with several high profile signings and renewed optimism that they can avoid the lower reaches of the table.

Matters weer further enhanced yesterday (Tuesday) with confirmation that former Celtic and Northern Ireland international Paddy McCourt had signed for the club. The 33-year-old Derry man trained with Harps in Letterkenny last evening having played in a pre-season friendly against Cabinteely on Saturday.

The hugely talented winger is now expected to be in Ollie Horgan's squad for this Friday night's opener. The final paperwork is now being completed in order to have McCourt available for the visit of the Leesiders, who are one of the favourites for the top flight title this season.

“Paddy is a very experienced player who we hope will be big asset to us for what is going to be a very tough season. Here at home he has played with top Premier teams like Shamrock Rovers and Derry City before going to Celtic, which is a huge achievement and won Scottish League and Cup titles,": he said

Indeed McCourt started his professional career with English Third Division club Rochdale in 2001 before moving to League of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers in 2005. Later that year he moved to his home-town club, Derry City, where he won the League of Ireland Cup three times in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and the FAI Cup in 2006. In 2008 he signed for Scottish Premier League club Celtic and went on to win the Scottish Cup in 2011 and 2013 and the SPL title in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

In the summer of 2013 McCourt signed a one-year contract at Championship club Barnsley before moving to Brighton & Hove Albion for the 2014-15 campaign. He joined League One club Notts County on loan for the final third of that season. He left Brighton and in July 2015 signed for League Two club Luton Town before returning to Northern Ireland last year to play wit Premiership club Glenavon.

McCourt made his Northern Ireland international debut in 2002, but did not play again until 2009. He scored his first two goals against the Faroe Islands in 2011 and made a total of 18 international appearances.

The Harps manager sees McCourt as a player who can create chances with his silky skills and his signing will certainly put a pep in the step of front men Ciaran O'Connor and Danny Morrissey who will be aiming to be on the end of the Derry man's assists.

"Look, Paddy has come in late so it will take him a little time to get to know the other lads. He has that natural ability to make things happen and we will need him to produce that quality because we are going to be up against very well organized defences in this division. We hope his presence will give all at the club a bit of lift for Friday night's game against Cork City" Horgan said.

Meanwhile, McCourt himself is pleased to have put pen to paper for Harps and is looking forward to a new challenge back in the League of Ireland Premier Division.

"I have trained a couple of times with Harps now and played against Cabinteely in Saturday. It's a good setup here with Ollie Horgan and Paul Hegarty who are doing a good job. I'm looking forward now to being part of the squad for the new season and I want to play my part in keeping Harps in the Premier Division," said McCourt.


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