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'Number one target' - Another Irish player signs for League One side Rochdale

Cork defender Eoghan O’Connell joins from Bury on a two-year deal.

Eoghan O'Connell has signed on a two-year deal.
Eoghan O'Connell has signed on a two-year deal.

IRISH DEFENDER EOGHAN O’Connell has signed for League One outfit Rochdale Football Club. 

The 23-year-old put pen to paper and agreed a two-year deal today, moving to the Crown Oil Arena from Bury.

Cork native O’Connell — the last Irishman to play a Champions League game — helped Bury return to League One this season, playing 35 times as they sealed promotion.

The highly-sought-after defender turned down offers from other clubs and will now start a new chapter at Rochdale after six years at Celtic in the past.

O’Connell started his professional career in Glasgow, coming up through the ranks and graduating from the academy to the first team, for whom he made 13 appearances, some of those in the Champions League. 

His last game for the Hoops before moving to Bury two years ago was a 7-0 defeat to Barcelona and saw him come on as a second-half substitute. That makes him the most recent Irishman to feature beyond the qualifying/play-off stages of the Champions League.

While at Parkhead, he spent time out on loan at Oldham Athletic, Walsall and of course, Cork City. And now at Rochdale, he’ll join former City team-mates Stephen Dooley, Ryan Delaney and Jimmy Keohane and work under former City player Brian Barry-Murphy, who succeeded Keith Hill as manager in March when the club were five points adrift of safety.

Eoghan O'Connell Lining out for Celtic in 2016. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With Ireland U19 and U21 caps, O’Connell — a cousin of Ireland rugby legend Paul — said of his latest move:

“I’m looking forward to working under Brian Barry-Murphy and I’m delighted to get the deal done. I’ve known Brian for a while and it’s very exciting what he’s trying to do here.

He was a huge factor in the move, to be honest, and I just couldn’t wait to get the deal done. I think we’ve got some very good players here as well, so once we get through pre-season and get started, hopefully it will be a good season.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has said how good a coach he is, and I’ve seen how good a job he did when he took over as manager last season. It just shows the ability he has, and obviously the lads did brilliantly as well.”

“I’m ecstatic to have been able to secure the services of Eoghan,” Barry-Murphy added. “It’s a position [right-sided centre-half] that we’ve been very conscious that we needed to recruit in.

That was the number one priority, really, and Eoghan was the number one target. If I’m being honest, for a lot of the summer I didn’t think we would be able to acquire him, but the fact that it has come to fruition is testament to his commitment towards us.

“There were a lot of opportunities for him to go elsewhere and no doubt there were better financial options, but he’s shown a hunger to come and join our club. He also has an admiration for a lot of our players, which is very exciting.”

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Emma Duffy

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