Coleraine midfielder Brad Lyons has joined Championship club Blackburn Rovers initially on loan until January and then on an 18-month contract.
The 21-year-old watched the Bannsiders beat Crusaders 3-0 to go top of the league at Seaview on Monday night and his transfer was completed on Tuesday.
In 119 appearances, Lyons scored 19 goals and moves for an undisclosed fee.
"It was always my dream to become a professional footballer and now it is coming true," said Lyons.
"It's very hard to leave the boys in the changing room because we're all like brothers - there's a great connection among us and you can see on the pitch that we're fighting and playing for each other.
"It's just as hard to leave the fans. The reception I got at Seaview was emotional for me and my family but Coleraine will always stay in my heart and maybe I'll come back one day to play for them."
Lyons recently went on trial with Blackburn and the finer details of his move have been ironed out in the last couple of weeks.
Education 'got deal over the line'
"You see the way Coleraine played against Crusaders and it's hard to leave but I know I'm moving on to better things and into a full-time football environment.
"I'm going into my final year at university and I concentrate on my education massively but Blackburn are helping me with my education and that's very important - that's what got the deal over the line.
"I just have to get my head down and get used to full-time training because that's the big difference for all the players that go over.
"Martin Smith and Stephen Dooley, who were part of our squad last year, have also moved to England and that gives me the extra motivation and confidence that I can go over there and acquit myself well."
Lyons progress 'exceptional'
Lyons made his debut in 2014 and established himself as an integral part of the Coleraine midfield under manager Oran Kearney.
He made over 30 appearances last season as the Bannsiders' remarkable campaign brought them an Irish Cup and a second-place finish in the Premiership, having lost just one game all season.
He scored twice in two league appearances for the Ballycastle Road outfit this season.
"The progress Brad has made in his four years or so at the club has been exceptional," observed Kearney.
"The timing for us couldn't have been worse but the thought of standing in his way for something that could be life-changing we would never do.
"Everyone in the changing room to a man is delighted for him and we look forward to following his progress and we really hope he kicks on."
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