LEAGUE of Ireland graduates Stephen McLaughlin and Sean Maguire have spoken of their delight after completing dream transfers to England.
The highly regarded duo agreed their deals in principle last month, but needed to wait for the transfer window to open before they could gain official clearance. Derry winger McLaughlin has put pen to paper with Nottingham Forest, while Waterford striker Maguire finalised his protracted switch to West Ham yesterday.
McLaughlin, who turns 23 in June, is the more advanced of the pair, and has a chance of coming into the first-team reckoning during this campaign. The change of manager at Forest presented a potential problem, but new boss Alex McLeish is no stranger to shopping in the League of Ireland; winter arrival Keith Fahey played a significant role when he secured promotion with Birmingham in 2009.
The goalscoring winger stepped into James McClean's boots at the Brandywell and is thrilled by the opportunity to follow in his footsteps by making an impact in England. Forest have paid Derry in the region of £160,000 for his services with the possibility of add-ons.
"Things are just going better and better each week for me," he said. "I came here on trial after I won the FAI Cup. I was called back, completed my fitness test and medical, went home for Christmas and now I'm back again to sign.
"I'm not used to how professionally things are run here – this is my first major club. No disrespect to Derry, but this is a massive club and I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
"I heard that Alan Hill (from Forest) was coming over to have a look at me and I was excited, but there were a heap of scouts watching me throughout the season so I just played my normal game. Thankfully, he liked what he saw and brought me over."
McLaughlin will kick off his education in the development squad. "It will be very important," he said.
"It'll allow me to get my bearings and to get a feel of how the game is played over here. Hopefully, from there, I'll be called upon for the first team."
Maguire, who is still 18, may have to be more patient. He shone at Division One level in 2012, although the campaign ended in disappointment with defeat in the promotion/ relegation play-off to Dundalk.
His advisors initially felt that he might need a year in the League of Ireland Premier Division to convince suitors of his ability, but a successful trial spell in London has accelerated his ascension.
The teenager came to the attention of the Suirsiders for his prolific goalscoring exploits with Kilkenny side Evergreen. "In summer 2011, the Waterford manager (Paul O'Brien) brought me in for a couple of training sessions and gave me a chance in the first team and I took it. Here I am now at West Ham and it is a dream come true," he said.
"People tend to say my best trait is my movement so hopefully I can show that here. I haven't been told yet which squad I will be in but I presume I'll be going into the reserves so I'll try and work my way up like I did at Waterford."