Glentoran and Glenavon have agreed a deal which will see Andrew Mitchell leaving Mourneview Park and Calum Birney joining us on a three and a half year deal. The Glenavon striker is in the final year of his contract and had turned down an offer of a new deal. Glens defender Birney, who has been a target for Gary Hamilton for a number of years, is 26 and had 18 months left on his contract at The Oval.

Mitchell, who turns 26 next week, made 132 appearances (including 21 as a sub) and scored 44 goals in his two spells with his home town club.

“Calum is somebody I’ve always liked; he’s good in both boxes which is something, if you look at our stats over the last few years, we haven’t scored enough goals from set-pieces in the other teams’ boxes. He’s a good strong defender, at a good age,” Gary explained.

“We’re disappointed to lose Andrew with him being a local guy and a Glenavon supporter but in the end it just wasn’t working out for him. Andrew goes with all our best wishes. He’s a great lad, he’s been a friend of mine for a long time and I wish him all the best.¬† Being a local lad, he found the stick he was getting hard to deal with and it was affecting him and that was probably a big part in the reason why he didn’t agree to the new contract. It wasn’t for want of trying, it just wasn’t to be and he’s moved on. In his first year he was tremendous but in the last couple of year’s it hadn’t been the same and he accepts that too.”

Seamus Sharkey in action with Calum Birney in the opening day fixture. Stephen Hamilton/Inpho

Glenavon defender Caolan Marron is also joining Glentoran after the Oval Club came in with a financial offer that the Glenavon Board accepted for the 21 year old. Caolan joined Glenavon as a 17 year old in 2015 and has gone on to make 119 appearances (including 13 as a sub). He scored his only senior goal for the club in the Play-off semi-final defeat in May last year, ironically to Glentoran.

“The situation with Caolan is he’s only got a year left on his contract. We had the similar situation with Rhys in the summer and this was probably too good an offer to turn down given the same circumstances. Glentoran offered a financial package that was put to the Board and the board accepted it.

“It’s obviously with a heavy heart because Caolan has come through as a young player and since he’s been here he has kicked on and become a top player. I’ve always said it, Caolan Marron has the potential like Sykesy, like Bobby and like I thought Rhys and Singy had as well, to play in England. It hasn’t happened yet, it might in the future and maybe going to Glentoran and full-time training will enhance that opportunity for him.”

“The board and myself discussed the offer at the Board meeting on Thursday night and we made a joint decision to accept Glentoran’s offer. I’ve found it really difficult this year with the Rhys Marshall situation – we wanted to keep him but Rhys wanted to move on. It’s the same situation next year with Caolan. He’s got the same agent as Rhys and we all know, when players have agents, they want them to move on to bigger and better things and we were going to be in the same predicament come the summer as we were with Rhys.

“The likelihood is that, in that situation, the player wants to move to a full-time environment and better himself. It’s a Catch 22 situation: you can either try and persuade him to stay which would probably be highly unlikely, given he’s got an agent and the agent will be doing all the work in the background, as an agent does, to get him a move, or you sell him now. We’ve brought in Calum Birney at good age and he’s signed on a 3 and 1/2 year deal so he’s here for the future. With Caolan, you don’t know that because you don’t know what’s round the corner.

“I think the two bits of business have been good for the Club because, number one, Andrew wasn’t signing again anyway and, for me Caolan wouldn’t have signed again at the end of next year either. I know when he was given permission to speak to Glentoran he said he wanted to leave and whenever a player wants to leave, there’s not much point in having him at the club and hanging on when the situation is going to arise next year whenever he’s out of contract.”