Limavady sporting starlet, Aaron McGregor is swapping his Wolfhounds Gaelic Club jersey for Glasgow Rangers football club.
The 17 year old’s last competitive sporting action before joining the Glasgow giants was to set-up a winning injury time goal for his elder brother Conor in the Wolfhounds most recent league match against Ogra Colmcille with a searing run and clever handpass.
Such an action would see him penalised for handball in his new career after signing a two-year full-time professional contract with the Ibrox club. Aaron’s father Michael explained how the switch to Glasgow came about for the teenager who also played soccer for Ballymena United.
“It turns out Rangers had been watching him since he was 12, on and off, they actually made the approach to him around Christmas at Seaview after a game between Ballymena United Reserves and Crusaders. They introduced themselves and already knew a lot about Aaron. They phoned us on the Monday night and had him over the following Saturday and kept him to the Wednesday. The phoned as again the on the Thursday flew him back on the Saturday to keep him to the Friday this time then rang again on the Thursday to see if he could stay until the Saturday and then started to make the moves to the local clubs over here regarding compensation. Then they made the approach to us the following week.
“We’d heard that they had looked at him at the Milk Cup, but hearing something and having a concrete offer are two different things. The Milk Cup is a great tournament. Aaron played in it at both Junior and Premier level. He actually captained his county one year and the Milk Cup was a real opportunity for Aaron to impress scouts over the years. He also played in the Foyle Cup in Derry and scouts come and watch those tournaments.”
For Aaron, the opportunity to make a full-time career in soccer is a dream come true and he can’t wait to embark on his new career:
“I was delighted when they made they approach, it’s an opportunity to make a career as a full-time professional footballer. When you see Rangers’ facilities and their coaches, it’s a fantastic set-up. I’d been on trial with a few other teams, Bradford, Burnley and Aberdeen but Rangers’s set-up was the best.
“Bradford actually put a deal on the table, they offered a contract straight away, I was over three times with Burnley and they were in the process of bringing me over again when Rangers moved in between times. They moved very quickly once they had made their decision.”
Aaron’s move to professional football has come as a result of a lot of hard work over the years with Limavady Youths, Netwone Youths, Foyle Harps and Ballymena - with Limavady and Ballymena both set to get a financial boost for the work they did in his development.
“I’ve always wanted to be a professional footballer. It’s been hard at times to combine keeping up school work, with going for trials and training. I’m really looking forward to training full-time. It’s going to be a big change leaving home and moving to a big city but I’m looking forward to that as well.”
Michael took every step to make sure his son had the best opportunity to make the most of his talent: “When he was 13 there were enough men told me Aaron would be good enough and after that I decided that I would give him the best chance possible. I got Ollie Cummings to train him on the fitness aspect and I’d like to give a big thanks to Ollie for all his work.”
As talented at the Gaelic code of football as he is at the association version, Aaron played for the Wolfhounds right up until their most recent league match.
“I’ll miss the Gaelic, of course, and I wanted to play senior football for my club before I left and I’m glad I got the chance. I know there were a few boys that thought I was mad taking the risk of getting hurt when I had the contract there but it was something I wanted to do,” he said.
Michael said: “Sure he could have gone out and tripped on a step and injured himself. Aaron wanted to play senior footall for his home town club and he might never get the chance again,” he said.
Aaron won’t be the only player with a GAA background in the Rangers Rerserve and Under 19 squads he’ll initially be joining.
“Rangers is full of lads who have played Gaelic, there are five lads in the squad that Aaron’s joining three Dublin fellas and one from Omagh, and three or four of the Rangers scouts had Celtic tattoos on them. At this level it’s all about professionalism.”
It’s a testament to how well things have moved on that Michael is able to say that the reaction to Aaron’s move has been universally psotive.
“The reaction locally has been brilliant, from all sides of the community. We have had so many phone calls wishing him well. We had a going away party for Aaron at the weekend and the turnout was mixed right down the middle. Everybody is very proud of him.”