Irish duo Lee O'Connor and Connor Ronan embark on loan moves again

The pair have temporarily departed Celtic and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively.

lee-oconnor Lee O'Connor on senior duty for Ireland in a November 2019 friendly against New Zealand. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND international Lee O’Connor has returned to Tranmere Rovers by completing a season-long loan move from Celtic on transfer deadline day.

As O’Connor leaves Scotland, his former Ireland U21 team-mate Connor Ronan has arrived there after making a temporary switch from Wolverhampton Wanderers to St Mirren.

O’Connor is currently with the Ireland U21 squad ahead of European Championship qualifiers against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Luxembourg that are scheduled for Friday and Tuesday respectively.

The 21-year-old Waterford native also spent last season with Tranmere, for whom he made 42 appearances as they reached the League Two play-offs and the final of the EFL Trophy.

A versatile defender who can also operate in a holding midfield role, O’Connor was capped at senior level by Ireland in a 2019 friendly against New Zealand.

“Lee is not only a full-back, I like him in midfield too,” Tranmere Rovers manager Micky Mellon said of O’Connor, who has yet to be given a first-team opportunity at Celtic since joining the Glasgow outfit from Manchester United in September 2019.

“Apart from Jay Spearing, our midfielders are all forward running, so we don’t have a lot of players with Lee’s qualities in the building, so he is another fantastic addition to the squad. Lee can also play as part of a three-man centre-back partnership, he can play full-back, and he brings quality in several different areas of the pitch.

“He is currently away on international duty, which shows the pedigree he will bring to the team. Lee is a very talented player. He has a great mentality and he knows what it is all about playing for Tranmere Rovers.

“The supporters know of his qualities. The staff who worked with him last season told me how great of a lad he is too, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make in bringing him back to the club.”

connor-ronan Connor Ronan played 14 times for Ireland at U21 level. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Connor Ronan will spend the season in the Scottish Premiership after joining the Irish contingent that has been assembled at St Mirren.

It’s the sixth loan move that the talented playmaker has been sent out on by Wolves, who handed him a contract extension until 2024 last September.

As well as playing for Portsmouth, Walsall and Blackpool, Ronan has spent time with Slovakian side Dunajska Streda and Grasshoppers of Switzerland.

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“I can’t wait to get going,” the 23-year-old said of his move to a club managed by Waterford native Jim Goodwin, who was capped once at senior level by Ireland during his playing career.

“The manager wanted me to come in and play as I like to play as a creative midfielder. It was a really positive chat and from that point on it was just a case of getting everything sorted.

“I’m hard-working first and foremost and I think that’s got to be a given for any player. I like to get on the ball and try to dictate things and create and score as many goals as possible.”

Ronan won 14 caps for Ireland at U21 level, with the English-born midfielder featuring prominently during Stephen Kenny’s reign as manager.

St Mirren’s signing of Ronan is understood to be part of a contingency plan in case Jamie McGrath, who’s currently on international duty with the Ireland squad in Portugal, is sold before tonight’s transfer deadline.

McGrath has reportedly attracted interest from several clubs, with English Championship side Middlesbrough the latest to be linked to the ex-Dundalk and St Patrick’s Athletic star.

Irish players Joe Shaughnessy, Conor McCarthy, Alan Power and Charles Dunne are also currently on the books at St Mirren, who finished seventh in Scotland’s top tier last season.

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Paul Dollery

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