Guy Bates joins Paddy McCourt in Glenavon double coup
Irish Cup holders Glenavon last night sent out a massive statement of intent to mount a serious Danske Bank Premiership title bid in the new season with a double signing coup.
Northern Ireland international winger Paddy McCourt completed his signing, as revealed in Telegraph Sport yesterday. And he was joined in a first training session at his new club by returning striker Guy Bates after spells with Linfield and in Australia.
Both put pen to paper on one year deals with Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton who attracted both top players with his vision of taking the Lurgan club on to another level, building on their two Irish Cup wins in the last three years.
McCourt (32) is guaranteed a hero's welcome at Mourneview after a glittering career with Celtic, Northern Ireland and a raft of English clubs before returning home to his native Derry as his wife Laura underwent successful brain tumour surgery.
Bates (30) played a huge part in Glenavon’s 2014 Irish Cup campaign, leading up to victory over Ballymena United. But the former Mourneview terrace folk hero has work to do after leaving for Australia and then joining rivals Linfield on his return.
That move was nowhere near as productive as his previous spell at Mourneview, where he made 83 appearances and scored 34 goals, but boss Hamilton has unhesitatingly re-signed his former star man, believing together they can rekindle the fire of their last spell together.
Linfield, meanwhile, have had a bid for Chris Casement rejected by Portadown.
It is understood that the full-back is keen on a move back to the Blues having left Windsor Park to join the Ports four years ago. But for the moment at least, the Shamrock Park side are standing firm.
Linfield, who defeated Dundela 3-1 in a friendly at Wilgar Park last night, are now believed to be looking at other options, including across the water.
Casement handed in a transfer request in May despite having three years left on his contract.
The 28-year-old from Belfast started his career at Ipswich Town before having loan spells at Millwall, Hamilton and Wycombe. He moved to Dundee in 2009 and a year later came home to sign for Linfield, then managed by David Jeffrey.
If the deal can be resurrected, Casement would add to the growing number of Northern Ireland internationals that manager David Healy has at Windsor.
Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer Healy is determined to improve on finishing as runners-up in the Premiership and Irish Cup from last season.
To that end he has signed goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who is already making a positive impact on and off the pitch, and last week he added midfielder Sammy Clingan to the squad.
Both have won numerous caps for Northern Ireland and started at Windsor the night Healy scored a spectacular hat-trick in a 3-2 victory over Spain in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Casement’s one international cap came in 2009 when he played in a 3-0 friendly defeat to Italy in Pisa.
Portadown lost striker Gary Twigg to Coleraine at the weekend and Shamrock Park boss Pat McGibbon, whose side start with a 12-point deduction after the Peter McMahon registration breach, is determined not to lose more first choice players