Glenavon has further strengthened its squad by signing Mark Byrne, Darren Clarke Kelly and Gavin Hodgins.
Mark Byrne is a 23-year-old goalkeeper who has been a full timer with Dundalk for the past two seasons. During his time at Oriel Park he trained under Dermot O’Neill, a popular member of the Glenavon side which enjoyed considerable success in the mid-1990s. He has also played for Warrenpoint and Newry City. He started his career in the Cavan-Monaghan football academy.
“I brought Mark to Warrenpoint when he was an 18-year-old,” said Stephen McDonnell. “I felt that he had huge potential. Since then, he has become taller and stronger. He probably hasn’t started as many first team matches as he would have hoped to, but he has senior experience. I see him providing strong competition for Rory Brown.”
Darren Clarke Kelly is a 26-year-old winger who, most recently, played for Galway United. He has also had spells with Longford Town, Crumlin United, Colinstown, Shamrock Rovers and Cabinteely. Despite missing much of last season due to injury, he scored five goals and had six assists in a Galway team which won the League of Ireland First Division at a canter and reached the semi-finals of the F.A.I. Cup.
“Darren has huge ability,” said Stephen. “He is a two-footed, old-style winger. He is the sort of player who gets people off their seats. Although he struggled somewhat with injuries last season, his record for goals and assists per appearances in a very strong Galway team was impressive. He has the potential to be a top-class Premiership player.”
Darren Clarke Kelly
Gavin Hodgins is a 19-year-old striker who has been with Shelbourne for the past five years. He has moved to Mourneview Park on loan. He started his career close to his home on the northside of Dublin with Darndale F.C. A debutant for Shels at the age of sixteen, he made eight first team appearances last season. Gavin was a trialist at Hull City and has attracted interest from Ipswich Town and Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Gavin’s father’s circle of friends includes none other than Stephen Caffrey, one of the stars of the Glenavon team of the mid-1990s.
“I worked with Gavin when I was at Shelbourne,” Stephen continued. “He has a massive future in the game. I think he is good enough to play in England. He is a natural goalscorer. I have seen few centre forwards at his age who can strike the ball the way he does. He is quick and likes to play on the shoulder of central defenders. He is difficult to mark. He will add a new dimension to our attacking play.”