FORMER Republic of Ireland defender Stephen O’Halloran has become Stalybridge Celtic’s marquee signing.
The 31-year-old joins Celtic from FC United of Manchester where he made 45 appearances last season in the Vanarama National League North.
A former graduate of Aston Villa, O’Halloran played Championship football for Coventry City in 2010-11 while he also played for Stockport County and Salford City, where at the latter, he won promotion from the Northern Premier League in 2015-16.
O’Halloran has represented his country at Under-15, 16, 17 and 21 level and made the senior team in 2007 playing against Ecuador and Bolivia.
Manager Simon Haworth is delighted with the capture, saying: “Stephen is a big, big signing who brings quality on the pitch as a left-sided centre half and a character in the dressing room.
“Stephen has been promoted from our level and been playing regularly at FC United so is by no means an older player not featuring as much.”
O’Halloran became the third of five summer signings following the arrivals of Nathan Valentine, Ross Killock, Mark Lees and Craig Hobson.
Central defender Killock is no stranger to Celtic, though, as he was at the club during the 2017-18 season.
But a massive cut to the wage bill in the summer of 2018 brought about the departure of Killock and other experienced players as he joined Scarborough.
Haworth said: “I am thrilled Ross is back as he has good experience. He has been used to a winning mentality at Scarborough and also playing in front of bigger crowds.
“I am hoping he can use those things to help those around him which in turn will help us.”
Celtic’s manager added centre-back Chris Smalley, signed from Stockport County in January, will be returning but not until mid-September through personal reasons because of the impending birth of his second child.
Attacking midfielder Valentine, 25, joins Celtic from Scarborough Athletic when he has spent two seasons.
He was a key player for Scarborough during the 2017-18 season, scoring 15 goals as they gained promotion to Evo-Stik League, premier division.
Haworth believes Valentine will be a massive acquisition, explaining: “I came across Nathan when I manager Clitheroe and he always scored against us.
“Last season we lacked creativity, energy and goals from midfield and Nathan has scored 24 goals in the last two seasons.
“if he can replicate that with 10-15 goals for us, it will be priceless.”
Valentine has played for Yorkshire clubs Harrogate Town and Frickley Athletic as well as Radcliffe Borough and AFC Liverpool.
Striker Hobson, who first played for Celtic in 2009, has returned to Bower Fold from Ashton United.
Haworth describes his as the target man his side lacked following last season’s departure of Chris Sharp to FC United.
He said: “Craig is a good footballer who has played at a higher level. He has a presence and he will take physical responsibility off Scott Bakkor and Neil Kengni and allow them to play.
“Craig is precisely the type of front player we need, and I am delighted to have signed him.”
During the 2011-12 season, Hobson netted 16 times for Celtic and was rewarded with a move to Stockport County.
He has since played for Guiseley, Chester, Altrincham, Aberystwyth, Alfreton and Ashton United.
Lees has signed from Ashton United on a permanent basis following a loan at the end of last season as he rejoins for a second permanent spell with Celtic.
Haworth has also re-signed Bakkor, Ross Dent and Greg Wilkinson and taken up an option the club had for Kengni for the 2019-20 season.
Celtic have confirmed the departures of Liam Tongue, Glenn Rule Mathew Wolfenden, Olly Marx and Josh Solomon-Davies.
Tongue, who has joined Tameside arch rivals Hyde United, posted on social media he has left the club shortly before signing for Hyde, saying: “My time at @StalyCelticFC has come to end. Going back second time round was far more enjoyable and I wish you all the best of luck in the new season.
Last season’s loan goalkeeper Paddy Wharton has joined FC United following his release by Tranmere Rovers while another loanee Dan Cockerline has moved to Australia.