"Needed to do it"; Ireland U21 star explains why he left Celtic

By Euan Davidson

March 26, 2022

Ireland U21 and former Celtic man Lee O’Connor has given some closure on his exit from Parkhead earlier this season.

Having been excellent at Tranmere Rovers for a year and a half, O’Connor sealed a permanent move to the Superwhites in January. Signed by Neil Lennon in 2019 alongside fellow Manchester-based right-back Jeremie Frimpong, much was hoped for the former Manchester United academy talent.

However, while Frimpong advanced to the first-team, before getting a lucrative move to Bayer Leverkusen, Ireland youth star O’Connor didn’t progress at Celtic in quite the same way. Ultimately, it was time to move on.

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

In an interview with our friend Andrew Dempsey for Pundit Arena, O’Connor said: “I think I needed to do it for the good of my career.

“That’s what it came down to, that’s the only thing I was thinking about. From when I was making my decision, it just had to be what’s going to be the best thing for my career. That’s what I thought would be best so it was pretty straightforward.

“I could have maybe waited until the summer, made my decision, but I just wanted to play really. I just needed to play games. And I thought at the age I’m at now, the thing I needed the most was to play games. That’s what it’s come down to and that’s why I left.”

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Ireland U21 man Lee O’Connor needed to move from Celtic, and it’s worked out

Not every signing works out, sadly.

On paper, this one looked very promising. An Ireland youth international, who came up through the Manchester United academy? Boxes ticked there, for sure.

In the post-Mikael Lustig landscape, the right-back slot was an open contest. Few, even at Celtic, expected Jeremie Frimpong to progress the way he did. Moritz Bauer and Hatem Abd Elhamed were meant to duke it out for that berth.

Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Funnily enough, every right-back brought in during 19-20 has now left the club. Bauer, admittedly, was only in on loan, but he was widely expected to be the default option for Celtic that season. How quickly things can change.

For former Celtic option O’Connor, he’s getting regular football, and has now moved into a midfield role that truly suits him. All you can do at this stage, from a Celtic perspective, is hope he goes on to have a fruitful career.

Maybe one day, O’Connor will make Celtic regret not playing him more. In any case, he sounds far happier now.

Read more: Barry Ferguson’s comments on Celtic star Giakoumakis are a hilarious miscalculation