Ireland under-21 star Lee O'Connor makes deadline day move to Celtic from Manchester United

Tue, Sep 03 2019

O'Connor in action during Ireland's opening under-21 European Championships qualifier with Luxembourg in Tallaght. Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

Celtic have announced the signing of Ireland under-21 defender Lee O’Connor from Manchester United on a four-year deal.

The 19-year-old defender has been on the books with the Red Devils for three years since signing from schoolboy club Villa Park in Waterford.

O’Connor, who has trained with the senior Ireland squad, was given permission to leave Stephen Kenny’s under-21 camp ahead of Friday’s Euro qualifier with Armenia to sign terms with Celtic.

He captained Tom Mohan’s under-19s to a fourth-place finish at the European Championships in Armenia in July and had been widely tipped to taste senior football at Old Trafford.

The Waterford native will instead link up with Ireland underage colleagues Jonathan Afolabi, who made the move from Southampton in the summer, and Barry Coffey at Parkhead.

The teenager’s natural position is centre-half but he has played extensively at full-back for Ireland and Manchester United, and moved into midfield for the under-19 Euros.

“It feels surreal at the moment but I’m just looking forward to getting the international break over with and then starting with Celtic,” O’Connor told Celtic’s official website.

“I found out last weekend about Celtic’s interest, and it went from there. Today was a bit hectic but I’m just glad to get it through before the window shuts.

“The Irish squad met up this morning and I spoke to the manager, Stephen Kenny, and he was fine about me coming here today. I’ll meet up them again tomorrow for training.”

He continued: “It was a great result, so it’s a good start to the season for the team, and it was good to see a fellow Irishman getting a goal too,” he said.

“Walking through the Celtic Park tunnel, even in an empty stadium, I just want to run out on to the pitch, but I’ll just have wait and see what happens.

“It’s been a surreal week, but I’m really happy to be here and really proud as well.”