O'Connor makes Cork City return after 18 months at Preston North End

The former Republic of Ireland U21 international has committed to a second spell with the Leesiders.

Kevin O'Connor at Preston North End.
Kevin O'Connor at Preston North End.
Image: Martin Rickett

CORK CITY HAVE announced the loan signing of Kevin O’Connor ahead of the 2019 season.

The 23-year-old, who was capped by the Republic of Ireland at U21 level, returns for a second spell with City, who he joined from Waterford in 2015.

He was an FAI Cup winner for the Turner’s Cross outfit in 2016 and added a Premier Division medal the following year after featuring playing in the majority of the league-winning campaign.

O’Connor was snapped up by English Championship club Preston North End in the summer of 2017 but was unable to nail down a regular starting place.

“I’m happy,” he said. “Everybody knows how I feel about this club so it’s great to be back. I’ve been in training with the lads so I’m looking forward to getting my head down, working hard and going again.

“There are still a good few of the lads here from when I was here before, and the new lads seem bang on. It seems like a really good bunch and hopefully things will go well on the pitch.

“I want to get games, that is my main target, but we want to be challenging up around the top of the table as well. I’m just hoping to come back, work hard and play as many games as possible.” 

The Wexford native — who made headlines 12 months ago with a €1million lotto win — played nine first-team games for Preston, before moving out on loan to Fleetwood Town and Crewe Alexandra.

Despite being known predominantly as a left-back, Cork City manager John Caulfield has a different role in mind for O’Connor this time.

Kevin O'Connor celebrates scoring their second goal from a free kick with Karl Shepard and Sean Maguire O'Connor celebrates after scoring in Cork City's 2017 President's Cup win over Dundalk. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Caulfield said: “It’s a great coup for us, Kevin coming back in. We all know he’s a fantastic footballer. We have been a bit short on numbers in the middle of the park since Jimmy [Keohane] has gone.

“People may not remember, but Kevin joined us as a midfielder and played there in the cup final in 2015, and we converted him into a left-back. We see him as a centre of the park player now; that is where he has been training and he has looked very sharp since he has come back in. It’s like he has never been away.

“He has trained very hard every day, he is a beautiful footballer and very good on the ball. He will be a huge addition to us and we are delighted to have him.”

City will contest the President’s Cup against Dundalk at Turner’s Cross tomorrow (5.30pm). O’Connor’s involvement depends on the receipt of international clearance.

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The Leesiders begin their Premier Division campaign away to St Patrick’s Athletic next Friday.

Following a tough Six Nations opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt will look to regroup against a dangerous Scotland side. This week, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to assess the damage of last weekend and look ahead to the clash in Murrayfield:

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