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O'Connor returns to Waterford on loan from Preston North End

The former Republic of Ireland U21 international is to embark on a second stint at the RSC.

Kevin O'Connor spent 2019 with Cork City.
Kevin O'Connor spent 2019 with Cork City.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

KEVIN O’CONNOR WILL be back in the League of Ireland this season after Waterford announced that the 24-year-old has joined the club on loan from Preston North End.

O’Connor, who moved to the English Championship outfit from Cork City in July 2017, returned to the Leesiders last year and spent the season on loan at Turner’s Cross. However, he’s now set to line out for their Munster rivals, who he left to join City in 2014.

O’Connor, who can play at left-back or in midfield, said: “I’m delighted to be back. Waterford is a massive club and I’m over the moon to be finally back playing in the RSC. I started out my senior career here when I was 17, so for me it’s massive to get to come back to play again.

“It was great to get the call off Rennie [manager Alan Reynolds]. He’s been a massive influence on my career, from development squads right up to senior football. He trusts and believes in me, and any footballer who says that isn’t a huge factor when signing for a club is lying.

“I’ve zero doubts in my mind that Rennie will build as strong a squad as he possibly can. I know him long enough now to know he doesn’t do things by halves. Even now there’s a nice mix of experience and youth in the team. I’m not a young lad anymore in terms of how long I’ve been playing in this league, so hopefully I’ll be able to help the younger boys to develop.”

The Wexford native, who’s a former Republic of Ireland U21 international, added: “On a personal level for myself, I really can’t wait to be back playing football. I can’t wait to be enjoying my football again.”

preston-north-end-v-bolton-wanderers-sky-bet-championship-deepdale Preston North End's Kevin O'Connor tangling with Sammy Ameobi of Bolton Wanderers. Source: Martin Rickett

O’Connor made nine first-team appearances for Preston but ultimately fell out of favour. His last outing for the club came in December 2017. He then spent time on loan at Fleetwood Town and Crewe Alexandra, before returning to the League of Ireland last year.

“I’m delighted to have gotten Kev in on loan. He’s a great player and he knows what this club is all about,” said Waterford boss Alan Reynolds, who has also brought in two of O’Connor’s former Cork City team-mates — goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan and striker Graham Cummins — for the 2020 season.

“He’s been around the league for a good few years, and he’s still relatively young. I’ll be hoping he’ll be able to lead the younger players on the pitch, while still being able to run himself.”

O’Connor, whose Preston contract expires in the summer, will hope to be involved when Waterford begin their Premier Division campaign away to St Patrick’s Athletic on 14 February.

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Paul Dollery

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