Ryan Harpur returns to Annagh - 20 years on from ‘debut’ beside dad and brother
Ryan Harpur’s move to Championship club Annagh United marks something of a return to family roots for the 32-year-old.
And when he lines out in next season’s Championship it can go down in club history as a second ‘debut’ - two decades on from his first unofficial appearance...
His father David was an Annagh stalwart during the club’s Mid-Ulster League era, plus brothers Raymond and David have both pulled on the Portadown club’s colours.
In fact, the Harpur family home is based opposite Annagh’s Tandragee Road ground.
Harpur left Ballymena United this week, bringing to a close a decade-plus top-flight Irish League run that also featured spells with Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts.
But before his move as a schoolboy to Everton, Harpur enjoyed a brief but significant Annagh appearance.
“It must have been Davy’s final game or so for the club, with Ryan maybe around 14 years old and his younger brother Raymond about 12,” said Annagh boss Ciaran McGurgan, who also has long-standing Annagh family roots thanks to his father Brian serving for so long in various roles including club chairman. “Davy was keen to have the boys on the pitch with him for a few minutes, so they came ‘on’ to mark the occasion.
“So Ryan certainly has lots of connections to the club but, more importantly, we are signing a player of real quality and experience who can tick every box.
“Ryan, I’m sure, had interest from other clubs so we are delighted to get the deal over the line.
“With Ryan’s signing following on from Stephen Murray coming in from Portadown as another player with senior experience and top-level quality, we feel we have made two excellent additions to the squad.
“With both players in their 30s, the opportunity to come to Annagh, a club local and familiar to Ryan and Stephen, to enjoy the football and have the chance for regular gametime all adds up to something appealing at this point.”
Annagh’s past season was limited to knockout ties due to the absence of league football at non-elite level - with the spirited Irish Cup performance against Linfield at Windsor Park one highlight from a campaign so significantly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Annagh, having been promoted to the Championship as winners of the Premier Intermediate League under the 2019/20 mathematical model adopted due to coronavirus, face work in preparation for a first second-tier campaign.
“We’ve played Newry City and Loughgall so have first-hand knowledge of that quality, plus you see the business those clubs plus others like Ards have done and we know we need to push forward to give us a chance at protecting our Championship position next season,” said McGurgan. “Bringing in quality like Stephen and Ryan certainly helps us and we would hope to make another few signings to bolster the talent already on the books.”
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