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Former youth team striker Shay McCartan left English football in the summer when he was released by Bradford City and yesterday signed for Irish League club Ballymena United.

The 26-year-old, a member of the Burnley team that reached the FA Youth Cup semi-final in 2012, looked all set to join Michael Duff at Cheltenham, but, having played GAA this summer, has opted to remain in his native Northern Ireland.

Ballymena manager David Jeffrey said of the signing: “Words can’t express how happy we are to secure Shay’s services, which is appropriate as his record speaks for itself. I don’t have to wax lyrical about his ability and talent. He’s a 26-year-old Northern Ireland international coming to us from full time football. He had a number of offers to consider and we’re delighted that he chose Ballymena United. We’re getting a quality player with proven ability and it just so happens that what we could offer fitted in with Shay and where he is at the moment.”

McCartan explained: “I came home in March when the season was suspended for Covid-19, and initially told to take a week off, but obviously the season never restarted. In May the out of contract players were released and the longer I stayed at home I realised I was happy being here. I was offered full time contracts in England, but working at home was something new and I was enjoying the hours and the lifestyle and the busyness of it all really was great. Joining Ballymena United suits me perfectly. I wasn’t looking for full time football.”

McCartan joined Burnley in the summer of 2010 and was a member of the youth team for the next two seasons. In the second of those seasons he scored 25 goals at under-18 level including key goals in the wins against West Brom and Fulham in the cup run when they struggled to cope with his explosive pace.

He ended that season making his first team debut in a 2-1 win at Doncaster, coming on for Junior Stanislas, and made the bench again in the following season, one which proved to be his last at Burnley.

At the end of the 2012/13 season he was offered a new deal but then saw it withdrawn and that led to him signing for Accrington. He was there for four years before moving to Bradford City during which time he enjoyed a loan with Lincoln. He’s left English football having made over 200 league appearances in which he’s scored 41 goals.

We wish him the very best back home with Ballymena United.

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