New United signing McCullagh around the world for a short-cut!

Mark McCullagh made an encouraging debut for Ballymena United in Saturday's defeat by Coleraine. Picture: Press Eye.

Mark McCullagh made an encouraging debut for Ballymena United in Saturday's defeat by Coleraine. Picture: Press Eye.

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FOR a man from Randalstown, Mark McCullagh’s route to joining his local Irish League club Ballymena United has been something of a roundabout one!

The 25-year-old, who made an encouraging debut for the Sky Blues in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Coleraine, arrived at the Showgrounds on the last day of the transfer window after having spent time in Scotland and Australia in recent years.

“It’s good to get a game again – I’ve had a few for the Reserves but it’s good to get first team football again,” Mark told Times Sport.

“I was speaking to the gaffer during the week so I knew I was going to get an opportunity.

“I think I had done OK in the reserve games I had played – it maybe shocked a few of the other lads but I was able to concentrate on preparing myself for it.

“I was on a football scholarship at Stirling University and then I signed with Alloa Athletic and won the Scottish Third Division with them last season.

“But then I finished my studies and decided to take myself travelling so I took myself off around the world – initially it was for a year but I came back after three months and signed for Ballymena on transfer deadline day.

“It’s been a bit of a random turn of events but I’ve got here in the end!

“I had been in touch with Glenn by e-mail and then I spoke with him.

“The late Shea Hamill was a good friend of mine and had coached me since I was a kid and he put in a word with Glenn as well.

“I was in Australia when I got news of Shea’s death – I had literally been speaking to him 48 hours before, regarding this move, and I was devastated when I got the news.

“I’m signed to the end of the season so we’ll see what happens.

“I’ll have to speak to the gaffer and see if he wants to keep me on.

“I’m not sure myself what I’m doing yet because since I’ve come back, everything has been a bit up in the air.

“I’m working part-time but I’m job-hunting as we speak and where that takes me could determine where I end up.

“I’ve just finished my Masters in Sports Management. I’m a qualified personal trainer and I’ve worked in health and fitness for a couple of years so I’d like to do something maybe like leisure management, but we’ll see what presents itself,” added Mark.

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