Premier League champions Leicester have signed UCD starlet Dylan Watts for an undisclosed fee.
Watts’ nascent talent was nurtured at St Joseph's Boys in Sallynoggin and St Kevin’s Boys in Santry before the Blackrock boy joined the underage set-up at Belfield in 2014.
The midfielder went on to star in UCD’s Europa League campaign last season, delivering a man-of-the-match performance in the club’s 1-0 win over F91 Dudelange from Luxembourg.
Watts, who sat his Leaving Cert this summer, has made 20 appearances for the Students this season in all competitions.
The 19-year-old, who has been capped at underage level by the Republic of Ireland, said of the imminent move: "I'm really looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“It is a big opportunity for me and it is brilliant to be joining the Premier League champions.”
UCD manager Collie O'Neill was effusive in his praise for Watts, saying: "Dylan is one of the best players I've ever had the pleasure of working with - technically very good, with good, quick feet.
“He's made great strides in the last two years from not being a regular in our Under-19's to being one of the first names I put on the teamsheet for the first team.
“If he continues to make the same progression, then there's no reason why he can't eventually make his Premiership debut."
While the move took many by surprise, UCD director of football Pat Devlin revealed his side and the Foxes have been in negotiations for some time.
“It’s a deal we’ve been working on for quite a while,” Devlin told listeners on RTÉ 2fm’s Game On.
“Dylan is a smashing lad - a great player, a great personality, a real professional and certainly has fantastic ability.
“He’s got a football brain that you seldom see in this country.
“He need a little bit of work probably on the conditioning side of things.
“Potentially he’s one of the best players we’ve worked with in the League of Ireland in many years.”
Devlin, who has worked as a scout for a number of English clubs over the years, believes Watts will progress again when he embarks on a professional, full-time schedule.
“He’s such a classic act on the pitch from a football point of view, sometimes you don’t want to burden him if he’s not full-time with gym stuff,” he said.
“He wasn’t full-time - he was only in school, he’s only finished his Leaving Cert.
“I think now what’s going to happen, they’ll put him in to a special programme straight away.
“They don’t have to worry about the technical side - he’s just got so much ability.
“They’ll put him into a programme, they probably won’t play him as much as he would want to play and then, when he’s ready, they’ll have an all-round player.
“He’s a great chance of getting a future international cap.”