Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy on Celtic's Lee O'Connor
Lee O’Connor’s Ireland debut has been confirmed for tomorrow night, and he’s also now been given praise by manager Mick McCarthy.
According to RTE, O’Connor is only in the squad because he is suspended for the under-21 match against Armenia on Thursday night. This comes after he was sent off against Iceland in a Euro qualifier last month.
But it’s clear that McCarthy values the new Celtic man. O’Connor only joined the Hoops from Manchester United in the summer, and has a string of impressive under-21 appearances to his name with Ireland.
McCarthy spoke to RTE about how the centre-back has settled into things with the senior side. It’s fair to say he’s been impressed too:
“He has been fine. He trained yesterday, on a bigger pitch, not just the small-sided game and Lee was good, he looks to be settling in.
“They come in and they are always a bit quiet, but they don’t come in and tell me that they are nervous, they don’t want to show that. You can tell when you are talking to them or how they are around the lads, but the other lads are great, in terms of interacting with them, and making sure that they have settled in well.
“But they don’t come and tell me, you ask him ‘how you doing’, ‘yeah, great, I’m fine’, I’ve no idea how their feet are going under the water, but they seem to be settling in and as I said, the other lads have been very good with them.”
O’Connor has to take his glorious opportunity tomorrow night
O’Connor is clearly highly-rated at international level. To be just 19-years of age and to have a senior Ireland cap under his belt would be a big boost for him.
It’s fair to say he’s earned it too. He’s played 10 times for the under-21s this year, and has only suffered three defeats in those matches too. Five of them have ended in success, with the other two being stalemates (Transfermarkt).
Who knows what a clean sheet and an impressive display could do for his international career?
Funnily enough, despite the impressive milestone that he’s set to accomplish tomorrow, there’s still no sign of him making his Celtic debut. He’s been plying his trade with the reserves this season, and is still waiting to make his first senior appearance in club football.
A strong performance for Ireland could do him wonders in that regard. Neil Lennon is bound to be watching, and it sounds as though he’s impressed in training so far.
With Denmark coming up in a crucial qualifier after the New Zealand game, this could be O’Connor’s only chance with the A squad for some time. It would be ideal if he takes it.