Reading sign potential Irish star
Reading have signed highly-rated defender Pierce Sweeney from Bray Wanderers.
The 17-year-old joins the Premier League new boys for an undisclosed fee and becomes the latest in a long line of players to make the move from the League of Ireland to the Madejski Stadium.
Sweeney played 12 games for the Seagulls during the current Airtricity Premier Division season and is a Republic of Ireland youth international.
The former Belvedere schoolboy was at the Royals' training ground in Hogwood Park on Friday to undergo a medical and put pen to paper on a contract.
"I'm absolutely delighted, it's a big dream of mine and the best moment of my career so far," Sweeney told the official Reading website.
The young defender went on to say the Irish link was the main factor for signing with the promoted team. Current Ireland internationals Kevin Doyle and Shane Long are among the players to swap Irish domestic football for Reading in recent years.
"There are a good few Irish connections here, including Brian McDermott, which helped to attract me to the club," he said.
"There are plenty of players who have come from the League of Ireland and made the step up at this club, breaking into the first team, so it's something I want to aim for."
Everton were also reported to be interested in the centre-back, and speaking to the club's official website, Reading's Director of Football Nick Hammond was delighted with the signing.
"At the age of 17 Pierce is a young player with great potential, and one that we've identified and watched over a long period of time. He is entering an excellent environment, and I know he will work extremely hard to try and realise his ambitions," he said.
It is understood that Hammond had been watching Sweeney closely in recent weeks and was instrumental in capturing the teenager.
Sweeney will link up with former Republic of Ireland international Ian Harte as well as Karl Sheppard, who made the move from Shamrock Rovers last season.
He has also previously played alongside Royals' Academy full-back Shane Griffin at schoolboy level.
Bray Wanderers Director of Football Pat Devlin wished Sweeney well but was obviously disappointed in losing one of his key players.
“We are sorry to lose Pierce as he has been a very consistent performer since he joined us and he has worked extremely hard since the start of the season. But this is a fantastic opportunity for a young player and everybody in Bray Wanderers wishes him the very best," Devlin told the official Bray Wanderers website.