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PA O'Connor is on loan at Tranmere from Celtic.
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Praise for 'excellent' Lee O'Connor as Ireland youngster prepares for Wembley
The 20-year-old from Waterford could be tasked with keeping tabs on Aiden McGeady in the EFL Trophy final.

HE HAS ALREADY accumulated valuable experience of senior football by making 30 first-team appearances this season for League Two club Tranmere Rovers, but Lee O’Connor is capable of performing at a higher level.

That’s according to compatriot Joe Murphy, who’s also a member of a Tranmere squad that is 48 hours out from an appearance at Wembley.

Having booked their place in the EFL Trophy final by upsetting two promotion-chasing sides from League One – Peterborough United and Oxford United – Tranmere will be hoping to make it three on the bounce at the expense of Sunderland on Sunday.

Operating as a defensive midfielder, O’Connor has played an important role in the Merseyside club’s run to the final. The 20-year-old picked up man-of-the-match honours for his contribution in the 2-1 victory over Peterborough.

Due to an injury to Otis Khan, O’Connor has reverted to a more familiar right-back berth in recent weeks. He looks set to retain that role this weekend, which could see him tasked with keeping tabs on veteran Ireland winger Aiden McGeady. 

O’Connor joined Celtic from Manchester United in the summer of 2019 but has yet to debut for the Glasgow giants. He made a season-long loan move to Tranmere last August.

“Lee is an excellent, excellent player,” Joe Murphy said of the Waterford native. “He’s not a League Two player, Lee is like a Championship footballer. He’s clever, he’s really cool on the ball, very calm, and he’s like that as a lad too – very laid-back.

“He’s been a bit unlucky. He was in the team, playing really well, then he got a little niggle and I think he had to self-isolate [for Covid-19 reasons] then as well for a little while.

“That took him out of the team at a time when we were starting to do well. He played the last two games of this competition in a holding midfield role and he was excellent.”

republic-of-ireland-v-new-zealand-international-friendly-aviva-stadium PA Lee O'Connor in possession for Ireland against New Zealand in November 2019. PA

Murphy, who was capped twice by Ireland, will also be hoping to feature for Tranmere this weekend. Although he’s the club’s second-choice goalkeeper, the 39-year-old started all of their fixtures in this EFL Trophy campaign until a bout of flu forced him to miss the semi-final win against Oxford United.

The Dubliner has been impressed by O’Connor, who made his senior Ireland debut under Mick McCarthy in a November 2019 friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium.

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Murphy said: “Lee is the sort of player who could play anywhere and he’d do a great job. He’s got a really big future and he’s a great lad. Whether it’s at Celtic or somewhere else, hopefully he can push on and get some more games under his belt. That’s what it’s like at that age.

“With his ability and the way he plays the game, he’s a Championship player. Time will tell what level he can go to so hopefully something good comes for him.”

Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella discuss CVC’s share in the Six Nations, TV rights, Ireland’s trip to Edinburgh, and last weekend’s inter-pros:

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