Ross County have re-signed midfielder Jim O’Brien on the eve of the home Befred Cup match against Hibs.
After agreeing a release from his contract with Shrewsbury Town, the former Celtic, Motherwell, Barnsley and Coventry City player has signed a two-year deal with the Staggies.
The move will bring to an end County’s interest in Caley Thistle’s Ross Draper with manager Jim McIntyre now happy with his midfield resources.
McIntyre believes O’Brien’s late-season performances for County played a significant part in the upturn in results which dragged the Staggies away from relegation danger and into seventh place in the Premiership table.
The 29-year-old was offered a contract at the close of last season, but took time to weigh up his future.
McIntyre said: “We’re delighted to bring Jim back. There was a contract there for him at the end of the season and the only reason it wasn’t done sooner was down to family reasons, with Jim looking at options closer to home.
“That’s not happened but we’d kept in touch throughout the summer and Jim called me and expressed a real desire to come back. I’m delighted to have him.
“He played a pivotal part in that last spell of last season, making a really positive impact.
“He’s got great energy so these are all attributes he brings to the team.
“That’s it done for us in terms of midfield. There’s a really good balance now with options, whichever system we choose to deploy.”
After impressive 2-0 and 6-0 wins against Alloa and Montrose, McIntyre is relishing the chance to step up the demands on his players against his club’s 2015 League Cup final opponents.
O’Brien’s chances of playing in the match will depend on County securing international clearance.
He said: “Hibs are a fellow Premiership club with good players. We’re looking forward to the game underneath the lights, with the cameras here as well.
“We had the midweek game and the travel, but that won’t come into it.
“The players are fit and we have a fully fit squad to choose from.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way pre-season has gone in terms of getting everyone through the work without any major injuries.”
McIntyre is an admirer of the work former Celtic and Bolton manager Neil Lennon has done in restoring top-flight status and rebuilding his Hibs team and said: “Neil had a remit to win the league and did that in his first season.
“I’ve got to admire that. He has had success most places he’s went, so it was no great surprise.
“I’m sure he’ll be looking to push on this season, but I’m more focused on what we do.”