Colchester United have bolstered their goalkeeper options with the capture of Rene Gilmartin from Watford.

The 30-year-old Irishman, who left the Hornets at the end of last season, has been drafted in as a player-coach by the U’s.

Gilmartin, who is a Republic of Ireland under-21 international, has been signed to provide competition for Sam Walker and youngster Dillon Barnes in the keeper department.

And the 6ft 5in former Walsall and Plymouth Argyle keeper will take over as coach, following Ademola Bankole’s departure from the club.

Bankole had previously been Colchester’s longest-serving coach and has left his role, following a nine-year stint in north Essex.

Gilmartin, who has been training with the U’s since the beginning of pre-season, started his career at St Kevin’s Boys in Ireland.

He joined Walsall in 2005 and remained there for five years, clocking up 39 league and cup appearances in total during his time at the Bescot Stadium.

Gilmartin then moved onto Watford in 2010 but after loan spells at Crawley Town and Yeovil Town, was released two years later after playing seven games for the Hornets and joined Plymouth.

After leaving the Pilgrims in 2013, he returned to Ireland for a year to play for St Patrick’s before going back to Vicarage Road for a second spell.

He is Colchester's second summer signing, following the arrival of Ryan Jackson on a free transfer from Gillingham last week.

Meanwhile, Colchester have appointed former Nottingham Forest and Southampton keeper Paul Smith as their new head of academy goalkeeping.

Smith had previously been coaching at Southend United and will now help the U’s young shot-stoppers take their first steps in the game.

U’s academy manager Jon De Souza told the club’s website: “We have appointed someone who we believe is absolutely the right fit to push our goalkeepers from the Academy into the first team.

“We were looking for someone who had the right balance between playing and coaching experience, and we wanted to make sure took our time to find that person.”