JOHN O’SHEA wasn’t Sunderland’s only big Irish signing yesterday as the club announced the appointment of 31-year-old Irish solicitor Margaret Byrne as their new CEO.
Described by the club as “a rising star in both legal circles and the football industry”, Byrne, from Mullaghbawn in Armagh, was short-listed for the UK’s solicitor of the year award in October and has been instrumental in player transfer and contract negotiations for the Black Cats since her appointment as Sunderland’s legal director and club secretary in January 2007.
Indeed, yesterday, she was busy in helping to bring to a close the moves of Wes Brown and John O’Shea to Wearside. Byrne, who currently sits on the Premier League’s expert Legal Advisory Group, steps up from her role as legal director and company secretary in a boardroom revamp at the Stadium of Light.
As one of the youngest CEO’s in the Premiership, she replaces Steve Walton, who stepped down after three years in the job.
Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn said: “Margaret has been a true driving force at the club since her appointment here more than four years ago and the fact that the club has gone from strength to strength on and off the pitch in that period is no coincidence.
“She has enormous passion for our football club and, as its CEO, she will continue with the fantastic work that has gone before and will play a key role as the club continues to grow.”
It was a busy day at the Stadium of Light as Manchester United defenders O’Shea and Brown put pen to paper on a four-year deals.
O’Shea, the 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international, travelled to Wearside for a medical yesterday and wasted little time in becoming Steve Bruce’s eighth summer signing.
“Once I’d heard reports about the club and the people here, the ambitions and what the manager was all about, it was the only place I was going to come to,” said O’Shea.
Manager Bruce added: “John has been a solid, consistent part of Manchester United’s squad for well over a decade, which goes to show the fantastic pedigree of player we have signed.
“He is a wonderful professional both on and off the field and his wealth of experience and versatility will be great attributes for us.”
O’Shea made almost 400 appearances for the Red Devils during his 12 years with the club and despite having to delay talks earlier this week as his wife gave birth, he managed to tie up his move swiftly yesterday.