Could this ex-schools GAA star be the next promising youngster to thrive at Southampton?

The 17-year-old Kilkenny native has been rewarded for his progress at underage level with the Saints.

O'Connor signs his first professional contract.
O'Connor signs his first professional contract.
Image: Southampton FC

SOUTHAMPTON’S YOUTH ACADEMY has become famous for its ability to produce young talent.

Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers are among the players that have come through the club’s system in recent times.

And 17-year-old Irish central midfielder Thomas O’Connor is one of the youngsters currently aiming to emulate the feats of Bale and co.

Today, O’Connor took a big step in his progression, as he penned his first professional contract with the club, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal, after only joining the club last year.

Speaking to the Saints’ official YouTube channel, the Kilkenny native — who has represented Ireland at youth level, in addition to featuring for the Southampton U18 and U21 sides — said: “It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was three or four years of age so it’s hard to believe that this day has finally come. I’m delighted.

I started playing soccer when I was about five and I went to a few clubs, but when I came to Southampton I knew it was the right place and I’m just delighted to be offered a contract here. There was no doubt in my mind that this is the right place to come.

“It was difficult at the start, but once I got into the swing of it and got to know the lads I just settled down and playing football every day is something you can’t beat.”

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Having made four appearances for the U21 side towards the end of this season, O’Connor added that he was hoping to play more regularly for the team next year.

It’s a big step up, but once you get to know the lads there as well in that group and start playing with the lads day-in, day-out you improve too, and it’s always nice to make the step up.”

A talented athlete, O’Connor also caught the eye while playing GAA at schools-level prior to joining Southampton.

Last year, he hit 2-6 in a match-winning display, as Good Counsel College, New Ross, retained their Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Paul McGirr Cup title.

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