Irish Premiership: Crusaders add Ross Clarke and Michael Ruddy

Mark McChrystal (left) played 24 games for Crusaders last season
Mark McChrystal (left) played 24 games for Crusaders last season

Irish League champions Crusaders have strengthened their squad with the signings of Linfield winger Ross Clarke and defender Michael Ruddy from Ards.

The pair have both agreed three-year professional conracts with the club.

In a further boost for manager Stephen Baxter, defender Mark McChrystal has agreed a new one-year deal.

The 33-year-old had been linked with a return to Derry City after training with the Candystripes but was persuaded by Baxter to remain at Seaview.

Since clinching their third title in four seasons, Crusaders have added significant depth to their league-winning squad with the addition of defender Kyle Owens and midfielder Gary Thompson from Ballymena United.

Clarke, 25, spent the second half of last season on loan at Ards and made 83 appearances for Linfield during a six-year spell at Windsor Park.

Ruddy, 24, had a previous stint at Crusaders and will add competition for places in the backline along with the likes of McChrystal, Owens, Howard Beverland and team captain Colin Coates.

The Belfast club are now preparing for the start of their European campaign, with Crusaders set to earn a minimum of £700,000 from their involvement.

The draw for the first qualifying round of the Champions League will be held on Tuesday, 19 June with the first legs taking place on 10-11 July with the return matches on 17-18 July.

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