Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

GAA star signs for Glasgow Rangers

Aaron McGregor in his GAA club shirt. He has just joined Rangers

He’s a young Catholic, pretty nifty with a Gaelic football — and on his way to Rangers.

Budding football star Aaron McGregor is set make a remarkable transition this week when he swaps his GAA jersey for the Glasgow side’s blue strip.

The 17-year-old has been snapped up by the Scottish giants, signing a two-year full-time professional contract.

And while excited to be joining the Ibrox club and the Scottish Premier League, young Aaron is disappointed to be leaving behind his squad place with Limavady Wolfhounds Gaelic Club, for whom he’s played for since boyhood. Indeed, his last competitive sporting action before joining Rangers was to set up a winning injury time goal for his elder brother Conor in the Wolfhounds’ most recent league match against Ogra Colmcille with a searing run and clever handpass. Such an action, of course, would see him penalised for handball in his new career.

For Aaron, the opportunity to make a full-time career in football is a dream come true.

“I was delighted when Rangers made an approach, it’s an opportunity to make a career as a full-time professional footballer,” he said.

“When you see Rangers’ facilities and their coaches, it’s a fantastic set-up. I’d been on trial with a few other teams — Bradford, Burnley and Aberdeen — but the Rangers set-up was the best.

“Bradford actually put a deal on the table, they offered a contract straight away. I was over three times with Burnley and they were in the process of bringing me over again when Rangers moved in between times. They moved very quickly once they had made their decision.”

Aaron’s move to professional football has come as a result of a lot of hard work over the years with Limavady Youths, Newtown Youths, Foyle Harps and Ballymena United — and Limavady and Ballymena are both set to get a financial boost for the work they invested in his development.

“I’ve always wanted to be a professional footballer. It’s been hard at times to combine keeping up school work, with going for trials and training,” said Aaron.

“I’m really looking forward to training full-time. It’s going to be a big change leaving home and moving to a big city but I’m looking forward to that as well.”

As for Gaelic football, the teenager is sad to leave his first love behind. “I’ll miss the Gaelic, of course. I wanted to play senior football for my club before I left and I’m glad I got the chance,” he added.

Aaron’s proud father Michael explained how the switch to Glasgow came about.

“It turns out Rangers had been watching him since he was 12, on and off. They actually made the approach to him around Christmas at Seaview after a game between Ballymena United reserves and Crusaders,” he said.

“We’d heard that they had looked at him at the Milk Cup, but hearing something and having a concrete offer are two different things.

“The Milk Cup is a great tournament. Aaron played in it at both junior and premier level. He actually captained his county one year and it was real opportunity for Aaron to impress scouts over the years. He also played in the Foyle Cup in Derry and scouts come and watch those tournaments.”

Michael took every step to make sure his son had the best opportunity to make the most of his talent.

“When he was 13 there were enough men who told me Aaron would be good enough, and after that I decided that I would give him the best chance possible. I got Ollie Cummings to train him on the fitness aspect and I’d like to give a big thanks to Ollie for his help,” he said.

Aaron won’t be the only player with a GAA background in the Rangers reserve and Under-19 squads he’ll initially be joining.

“Rangers is full of lads who have played Gaelic: there are five in the squad that Aaron’s joining, three Dublin fellas and one from Omagh, and three or four of the Rangers scouts had Celtic tattoos on them,” said Michael.

“At this level it’s all about professionalism.”

It’s a testament to how well things have moved on that Michael is able to say that the reaction to Aaron’s move has been universally positive.

“The reaction locally has been brilliant, from all sides of the community. We have had so many phone calls wishing him well.

“We had a going away party for Aaron at the weekend and the turnout was mixed right down the middle. Everybody is very proud of him,” he said.

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