Glentoran have made Ballymena United star Shay McCartan their number one transfer target ahead of the new Danske Bank Premiership season and are determined to land the dazzling forward to cheer supporters after suffering TWO crushing summer blows.
First the Glens were defeated by fierce rivals Linfield in the race to sign Chris Shields from Dundalk and then they were stunned to lose to The New Saints at the first hurdle of the Europa Conference League in a tie they fully expected to win.
Earlier this month, Sunday Life Sport reported that Oval boss Mick McDermott had made an enquiry about McCartan but, since the European exit and the barrage of criticism that followed from frustrated supporters, his desire to bring the former Northern Ireland ace to east Belfast has intensified.
It is understood that the Glens are willing to dramatically increase the wages of the 27-year-old and would consider letting him maintain the part-time status he currently enjoys at Ballymena, even though the Oval outfit are full-time.
Understandably money talks for footballers, but the ball is very much in Ballymena’s court about any potential transfer because McCartan, having joined in September 2020, signed a new two-year deal with the Showgrounds side in April.
The ex-Burnley and Bradford ace impressed in his first season with the Sky Blues and is highly regarded on and off the pitch at the club. In turn, he has a good relationship with the board and management and has been happy working under David Jeffrey and Brian McLoughlin, feeling they give him the license to express himself and make a difference.
Ballymena would prefer to keep McCartan but, should they receive a fee that would smash the Irish League transfer record and go well north of £60,000, it is an offer they may find hard to refuse.
There are many involved in the game here that would say McCartan is worth it given his ability to play in a variety of positions and come up with big moments, though Glentoran may try to throw in some players to reduce the cost.
In the first couple of years of the new regime at Glentoran under McDermott and assistant boss Paul Millar, with the finances of owner Ali Pour, some suggested that The Oval club adopted a scattergun approach to transfers with a host of new arrivals.
This summer they have wisely decided on a new plan, signing up existing influential players — such as Luke McCullough and Gael Bigirimana — on new contracts such and targeting what sources inside the club have described as a select few ‘game-changers’ to take the Glens to the next level.
That next level is to win the League.
In the past two seasons, they have flattered to deceive in the title race with Linfield winning it on both occasions but, prior to his third full campaign in charge, McDermott is savvy enough to realise that, much like the 2021 Ulster summer, the heat will be on to become Champions.
Glentoran have done well in qualifying for Europe two years running but, given all the investment at the Oval, failure to topple the Blues again in the Premiership would be brutally hard to stomach for their supporters.
Hence that determination to bring in those ‘game-changers’. The Glens were gutted to miss out on Shields and they won’t want to miss out on McCartan, whose situation is being watched by other clubs in the League, including Larne.
Interestingly, Linfield chairman Roy McGivern revealed during the week that the Blues may need to look at a replacement for Maltese striker Kyrian Nwoko, whose move to Windsor Park from Valletta has been held up because of work permit problems due to new Brexit regulations.
If the Nwoko switch can’t be completed, Linfield will be in the market for other quality forwards with McCartan up for consideration.
A sticking point is that the Blues want all their players to be full-time now, though perhaps the Ballymena ace could be persuaded to go down that road given the virtual guarantee that he would be competing for big trophies and, as Shields pointed out when joining Linfield, playing for manager David Healy is a big draw.