Ben Doherty made the decision to move from Coleraine because the prospect of playing full-time football at Larne was too tempting to turn down.
In an extraordinary day of transfers in the Irish League, classy midfielder Doherty joined the Inver Park outfit for an undisclosed fee with talented youngster Conor McKendry going in the other direction to the Showgrounds, while in Belfast, Glentoran snapped up goalkeeper Aaron McCarey from Cliftonville with winger Jamie McDonagh leaving The Oval for Solitude as part of the deal.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that there could be even bigger transfers in the pipeline with Larne determined to snap up Cliftonville’s record goalscorer Joe Gormley and Glentoran keen to land former Northern Ireland ace Shay McCartan from Ballymena United.
Doherty was a crowd favourite at Coleraine having scored some big goals for the club, especially in Europe against Motherwell, NK Maribor and FK Velez Mostar, but once Larne came in for him, Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney knew keeping the player was impossible.
“We can compete with every club on the pitch, but sadly full-time football is not an option for us at the moment,” said Kearney.
“So when full-time clubs approach our players it becomes a dilemma, especially if the player has aspirations to be full-time with the lifestyle that it presents.
“Once it became apparent that Ben was keen on the opportunity, we have to do what’s best for the club.”
Larne boss Tiernan Lynch said: “Everyone in the league knows about Ben’s qualities and I am absolutely delighted we could bring him to Larne.
“I have to thank the club for making this possible and we feel it is a major signing for us as we continue the process of building the squad at Inver Park.
“Ben is just 24 but he already has significant experience in this league under his belt, which is a big factor. He has done it week in, week out at this level and shown his quality in European games as well. We’re delighted to have him.”
Doherty, while sad to leave behind friends he made at Coleraine, is itching to get going at Larne.
He said: “It’s a big move for myself and everyone knows there is a big project going on at Larne. I’ve wanted to test myself with full-time football for a while now and I feel the time is right to do that, so I can’t wait to get going.”
On the arrival of forward McKendry, Kearney stated: “I’ve no doubt that Conor will excite our fans and be a joy to watch.”
Glentoran’s move for McCarey, who has signed a three-year contract, suggests that Gibraltar goalkeeper Dayle Coleing is on his way out of the club.
McCarey said: “I’m delighted Glentoran have given me the opportunity to get back into full-time football as it’s where I’ve been virtually my whole career bar the past six months.
“Mick (McDermott) and Windy (Paul Millar) really sold the club’s ambitions to me.”
French-born former Linfield midfielder Bastien Hery has joined Derry City on loan from Bohemians until the end of the season.
Manchester United’s Under-16s will face Ballymena United in a Super Cup NI Youth Challenge Match at the Showgrounds tonight (7pm) following Monday’s 2-0 victory over Coleraine.