Ballymena United are hoping to beat derby rivals Coleraine in the race to sign defender Jim Ervin.
Ervin was released by Linfield on Tuesday night after almost 10 years at Windsor Park.
Derby rivals Ballymena and Coleraine have both expressed an interest in the 28-year-old, while Crusaders have also been tentatively linked with the experienced full-back.
Confirming Ervin’s release, Linfield boss David Jeffrey said:“The club has agreed to release Jim unconditionally from his contract,” Blues boss David Jeffrey confirmed.
“By unconditionally, we mean that no fee will be sought for the remaining period of his contract. Furthermore, there will be no stipulation in terms of not being allowed to play against this club in the remainder of this season.”
Jeffrey added: “From a personal point of view, I want to thank Jim for all the service he has given the club.
“He did tremendously well for us and I can’t speak highly enough about him.”
Meanwhile, Coleraine have signed Cliftonville midfielder Joe McNeill on loan to the end of the season.
McNeill joined the Reds from Portadown last summer but has struggled to secure regular first-team football at Solitude.
The Bannsiders have also extended Eoin Bradley’s contract to the end of the current campaign.
Elsewhere, Cliftonville midfielder Martin Donnelly has been named BT Sport Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Association Player of the Month for December.