Lee O’Connor during the warm-up for his 71st Irish cap, against Montenegro, on Tuesday. Photos: Inpho.
Prior to Lee O’Connor departing John Lennon Airport in Liverpool on Sunday week last in joining up with the Republic of Ireland Under 21 team, the Waterford native walked out of a rain soaked Prenton Park to a hero’s reception after helping Tranmere Rovers to a 2-1 win over Crawley Town.
As the rain poured down, the Tranmere number 22 appeared from the players’ exit to a host of young Superwhites supporters looking for his autograph whilst receiving plaudits from their parents after his vital block five minutes from time deny Crawley an equalising goal.
I was lucky enough to be a guest of the 21-year-old for the game, and his introduction on 80 minutes came at a stage when their opponents were piling on the pressure in the hope of an equalising goal, and when acknowledging the super block before the finish, he was more interested in the miss beforehand.
“I should have scored,” he said when having a goalbound effort blocked. Surrounded by kids, he was handed a deck of cards and a marker, but with the rain pouring down, the marker wasn’t worth anything so a pen had to do. “I’m not signing all these cards though,” he proclaimed whilst holding close to a 100 of them.
He did his duty by signed the cards, standing for pictures, putting the smile on the faces of a lot of supporters, before driving back across the tunnel at Birkenhead back in Liverpool, with one focus in mind at that was representing Ireland once again.
After admitting that his move back to Merseyside took a “bit longer than I expected”, he is happy to be back, and now he is hoping that he can continue his run of games when he returned to the club after another spell on International duty.
Ireland’s Lee O’Connor in action during his 70th Irish cap (at all grades) against Luxembourg on Friday night at the Tallaght Stadium.
At Tallaght Stadium on Friday night, he walked out to his 70th cap at international level for his country where he put in a super display at right-back in a 2-0 win over Luxembourg, a game Ireland won thanks to goals from Joshua Kayode and a Conor Coventry penalty.
And he made it 71 caps yesterday (Tuesday) against Montenegro.
Lee made his debut in green away to Poland U-15.
O’Connor has one Senior cap to his name, that in a 3-1 win over New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium, he is now hoping that he can once again hit the heights of playing at Senior level.
“I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, playing my football,” said O’Connor. Hopefully, get into the senior set-up at some point. But we’ve two of the best right-backs in the Premier League in the senior team so it’s not going to be easy for me. It’s a big thing for me to play for my country.”
Now it’s back to Merseyside to try get a run in the Tranmere Rovers team, who going good guns in recent weeks to move up to fifth spot in the table, just five points off league leaders Forest Green Rovers.