Matthew McCord and Max Burton have left Premier League side Carrickfergus to join Cliftonville Academy.
Formed after a merger between Cliftonville and Academy in 2017, the club will be playing in Section One this season after winning the Section Two title in 2019.
It’s a return home for McCord who left to join Carrickfergus ahead of the 2018 season, where he helped the Middle Road side to two consecutive third-placed Premier League finishes and a first ever Irish Senior Cup quarter-final spot in 2019.
2018 was a breakthrough season for the fast bowler, picking up 27 wickets at an average of 23.07 while also contributing 207 runs down the order with a high score of 57 coming against Armagh.
It was that sort of form that earned him a First Class debut with the Northern Knights against the North West Warriors at Bready in July 2018 where he scored 46 in the seconds innings of a heavy defeat.
The 25-year-old came into 2019 injured and only picked up 13 wickets, ending the campaign bowling almost 46 less overs than in the previous season.
Burton played 14 times for Carrick across all competitions in 2019, scoring 143 runs in 12 innings.
Despite still being a teenager, the versatile wicketkeeper-batsman has already racked up a significant amount of first team experience since making his debut in June 2016, going on to play 40 times in total across all competitions.
He helped Belfast Royal Academy to Schools Cup glory in 2019 by contributing a man-of-the-match winning innings of 82 in the final to beat Methody by three wickets.
Carrick also lost Jack Burton and Harry Warke to Woodvale earlier this year but have been bolstered by the arrival of Neil Gill from Muckamore and return of Michael Armstrong.
McCord says he is excited at the prospect of returning to what is a very different side to the one he left a few years ago.
“I had a great couple of years at Carrick, particularly my first season which was great personal success for me and coming second in the Premier League,” he said.
“I’d like to thank Gilmour, Parky and Eagy in particular and wish them and the club well moving forward.
“The decision is purely about cricket for me. I read my article about moving to Carrick this week and the two main things mentioned were Knights and trophies.
“I’m delighted I achieved one of those aims and I’ll hopefully get to return to the top flight with Cliftonville Academy and challenge for the latter.
“I want responsibility with bat and ball and I’m hungry to win games of cricket.
“Last year was a bit of a write off for me. I went in injured after tearing my side about five weeks before the season started and was massively undercooked and was playing catch up all summer. At that level you just can’t get away with it.
“I’m excited to be returning to what I very much consider home and a very different team to the one I left. The team is very exciting.
“I go in as one of the older players at 25, which I think is particularly appealing.
“The opportunity to try and build something and challenging to be in the potential 12 team Premier League in 2022.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with the young guys like Andrew Forbes, Ben Kane, Adam Kelso and Niall Greenlees, and it’s obviously fantastic to have a guy as talented as Max coming with me too.
“I am also delighted to get back in around guys like Brian Anderson and Tetley who have been there and done it at the top level and people who would give a lot of credit too for my development as a cricketer.”