Former Celtic and Northern Ireland winger Paddy McCourt has officially rejoined the League of Ireland after nine years away, signing for Premier Division side Finn Harps.
The “Derry Pelé” had been without a club since leaving Glenavon two months ago, and has now signed for Ollie Horgan’s outfit just in time for the beginning of the new season.
— Finn Harps FC (@FinnHarpsFC) February 21, 2017
The 33-year-old had been training with Finn Harps earlier this week (as he had been with champions Dundalk earlier in pre-season) with a view to securing a move to Finn Park, and assuming all goes well with the paperwork he should be in line to play some part of the team’s opening fixture against FAI Cup winners Cork City on Friday night.
McCourt has had an interesting career. His first spell in the LOI came over a decade ago when then-Shamrock Rovers boss Roddy Collins poached him from Rochdale. His performance for Rovers and, subsequently, Derry City, convinced Celtic boss Gordon Strachan to part with £200,000 to sign him in 2008.
He became something of a cult figure at Parkhead. Lauded for his technical ability, Strachan referred to McCourt as “as gifted a footballer as [he’d] ever seen” as he impressed SPL crowds with his skills in his five years at the club.
A move to the Championship beckoned in 2013 but his career in England (with Barnsley and Brighton) never really scaled the heights that many had hoped it would, and after a one-year spell in League Two with Luton he decided to return home.
At international level, McCourt has 18 caps for the Norther Ireland national side. Having made his debut in 2002, he had to wait almost seven years for his next call-up but was a more permanent fixture in the squad from there on in. Unfortunately, a serious illness affecting his wife meant that he had to pull out of Michael O’Neill’s squad for the European Championship in France last year.