I had to leave Celtic for my career, says Lee O’Connor


As Celtic players seek a Scottish Premiership title and a return to the Champions League, Ireland international Lee O’Connor regrets his decision to cut ties with the Bhoys and move permanently to the English League Two.

The Waterford man, who had a year and a half left on his contract at Parkhead, insists leaving Glasgow and heading south was the right move for his career at club and international level.

Capped once by Mick McCarthy in 2019, the versatile O’Connor is still awaiting his U-21 spell and will earn his 20th cap at this level in Tuesday’s EURO qualifier against Sweden. Having last played for the Under-21s in the home win against Sweden in November, O’Connor made his move from Celtic to Tranmere Rovers on loan a permanent move. That meant giving up his Parkhead dream but he’s glad he made the call.

“It was pretty easy for me. I think I had to do it for the good of my career. That’s what it came down to, that was the only thing on my mind. When I made my decision, it just had to be the best thing for my career,” said O’Connor, who signed for Celtic in 2019 but never made a first-team appearance.

“I might have waited until the summer and made my decision, but I just wanted to play. I just had to play games. I thought at my current age (21) I need games the most. That’s what it boils down to and that’s why I left. It was pretty much up to me. When Tranmere said they wanted me and I decided I wanted to go there it was pretty easy and that was it. It’s a great club. It didn’t work out for me (at Celtic).”

He is now a driving force in Tranmere’s squad which is on its way to League One, a level which would give him more chances to show he is ready for the international senior team. Stephen Kenny has relied heavily on O’Connor during his tenure as U-21 coach and while promotion to the senior squad is clearly one of his goals, he is determined to complete this U-21 qualifying campaign with a first-ever qualifier to complete.

“It’s obviously my last chance to do it. Being the first (Irish) team to make it is what we all want to do. That would mean a hell of a lot,” he says.

O’Connor fears the threat from the Swedes but is also buoyed by his own record against them: three games and three wins against Sweden. I had to leave Celtic for my career, says Lee O’Connor

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