LUKE McNally has become Oxford United’s first signing of the January transfer window.

The young centre back joins from League of Ireland Premier Division side St Patrick’s Athletic on a three-and-a-half-year deal for an undisclosed fee.

McNally has not played since his former club’s shortened 2020 campaign ended in November, while pre-season has been delayed by the new strain of coronavirus.

But the U’s fought off several rivals for his signature and the 21-year-old – who will wear the No 4 shirt - is excited to get started.

He said: “It’s obviously a big decision for any young man to come over from Ireland and live in England.

“I’m absolutely delighted - from first speaking to Karl (Robinson) I was really looking forward to coming over.

“How good a manager he is and how well he speaks probably edged it.

“That’s what made me choose Oxford, along with the team doing really well and the great facilities here.”

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McNally spent his first professional campaign on loan at Drogheda United, then in Ireland’s second division, in 2019.

The youngster returned to St Patrick’s last season and played every minute of their 18 league games.

He does not count towards United’s squad limit of 22 players aged over 21 as part of the salary cap, although he will in 2021/22.

Robinson revealed the U’s have been keeping tabs on McNally for some time, although interest from clubs in Scotland and England complicated matters.

“He’s one I’m quite excited about,” United’s head coach said.

“A long time ago we were probably one of the only ones involved in the mix.

“But there were three of four clubs in the SPL and two or three in our league that were very aggressive with their bids.

“We cooled off in recent weeks and waited for a moment to try to get this one done.

“We’re really pleased, as I didn’t think it was happening at one stage.”