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Glentoran's foreign imports lift game in Northern Ireland: McDermott


New recruit: Lithuania international Deivydas Matulevicius has joined Glentoran

New recruit: Lithuania international Deivydas Matulevicius has joined Glentoran

Getty Images

New recruit: Lithuania international Deivydas Matulevicius has joined Glentoran

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott believes the influx of foreign talent at The Oval has raised the profile of the Irish League as well as strengthening the title chasers.

The transfer window may have just closed but the Glens continued their recruitment with the arrival of Lithuanian international striker Deivydas Matulevicius yesterday.

Boasting 36 full international caps for his country, the 30-year-old, who recently played for FK Kauno Zalgiris in his home country, looks another shrewd signing by the Glens.

Matulevicius was at Hibernian when Neil Lennon was in charge and the former Northern Ireland international encouraged McDermott to make a move.

The Glens boss has hailed the impact of his overseas sensations and he hopes Matulevicius will follow in the footsteps of Navid Nasseri, Hrvoje Plum, Marijan Antolovic and Elvio van Overbeek by becoming a big hit with the supporters.

"In the last few months he has played against Portugal, Serbia and Ukraine," said McDermott.

"We have been tracking him for a while and we had to keep our options open.

"He was out of contract with his Lithuanian side and was in Turkey but didn't agree terms with a club.

"He was at Hibernian under Neil Lennon and didn't play a lot there but Neil had good things to say about him. He has a good pedigree and people might say he's had a lot of clubs but so have a lot of players from that part of the world. We have watched him play a lot and he was a target of ours.

"When you're looking for players it's easy to scout in the Irish League because we all know each other.

"There's a constant cycle of players moving around and you can make an offer for a player.

"The tricky part is recruiting from outside and that's where you can really strengthen your squad. I think our foreign players have done that. I'm not trying to take credit for myself in any way but I feel the foreign players who have come in like Elvio, Hrvoje, Marijan and Nas have been a massive profile raiser for the Irish League.

"You look at forums in Croatia and there's Glentoran pictures of Hrvoje all over the place.

"More agents are talking and you have to keep that foreign market open.

"They bring a full-time way of thinking to their job.

"The foreign lads bring a strong work ethic and understanding of the full-time culture.

"They've had a positive influence on the local lads and it's an interesting blend.

"If the players are good enough then we are interested, wherever they are from."

Matulevicius made 12 appearances for Hibs in 2017-18 and has also had spells playing in Poland, Romania and Belgium.

The Glens made six new signings during the January transfer window - Keith Cowan, Ciaran O'Connor, Caolan Marron, Andrew Mitchell, Seanan Clucas and Ruaidhri Donnelly - but McDermott rejects any claim his squad will become too big to manage.

"It's good to have options," he added. "Players want to play but it tends to work itself out in football.

"Players get injured and suspended. It's a nice position to have lots of players but rarely are you sitting with 22 and having to leave four out of the squad.

"Over the course of the league most of our players have contributed in some way.

"Young Paul O'Neill scored two against Larne and 10 in total.

"Jonny Frazer hasn't played a lot but produced massive performances, including in the Irish Cup.

"It's not about keeping players happy, it's about keeping them motivated. You need a competitive squad and our players are motivated. You can see that in training.

"Players will move on and John Herron is an example of that. We have a good group of hungry players."

The Glens, currently second in the Premiership table, are at home to fourth-placed Coleraine tomorrow.

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