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Eoghan Bhoy-ed by Celts chances

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Eoghan O'Connell. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Eoghan O'Connell. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Eoghan O'Connell. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

EOGHAN O'Connell is waiting patiently for the next step in his Celtic career.

The teenager from Cork has been named as a substitute for a number of games since Christmas, but has still to get a taste of competitive action.

During Celtic's January break in Turkey, he played against Trabzonspor and Galatasaray after making a big impression in the U19 Champions League playing against Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax.

With the SPFL title almost secured Neil Lennon is likely to give some of his younger players game time, with the 18-year-old central defender ready to grasp the chance.

"The manager seems happy enough with me, I'm grateful and glad to be around the first team," O'Connell told the Herald.

"At the start of the season I never thought about getting into the first team, I just wanted to keep working and maybe catch the manager's eye at some stage.

* URKEY

"Going to Turkey was fantastic. I knew a few weeks in advance that I'd be going and really enjoyed the whole experience.

"It was a bit surreal to suddenly be in the same dressing room as the first team after watching them from a distance. It felt a bit strange at first, but I'm enjoying it, the established players are great with the young lads.

"In Turkey, I got 20 minutes in the first game against Trabzonspor then knew I'd be starting against Galatasaray. It was a very good trip for a few of the younger lads and I was very happy with how it went.

"I let my mum and dad know I'd be playing, everyone at home in Cork tuned in. After the game, my phone was going off all night. Everyone was getting in touch and my whole family enjoyed it."

To say that O'Connell comes from a sporting family is an understatement. His father Damien played for Cork City and Cobh Ramblers, while Damien's cousin Paul has captained Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.

Growing up in that background, Eoghan tried his hand at most sports, but from an early age it was soccer that caught his imagination.

Moving to Glasgow as a 16-year-old straight from school is certainly a learning process, with the defender growing up quickly as he found his feet off the park and made an impact on it.

"Being away from home is difficult but it's part of growing up, it's something you have to deal with," the defender, now in his third year at Celtic, recalled.

DIFFICULT

"When I first came over, it was difficult, I had just turned 16 and was away from my family for the first time. I picked up an injury in my first season but that just added to my determination to work hard and see where it takes me.

"There are days when you wonder if it's really worth it, but it never crossed my mind to give up or go home. I wasn't going to let it slip away because things weren't going for me right at the start.

"From an early age all I wanted to do was be a professional footballer. There was a lot of Gaelic football played in my family, but I enjoyed watching my dad playing for Cork City.

"A lot of my friends play Gaelic and I enjoyed playing it till I moved to Celtic, now all my efforts are concentrated on taking the next step and I know how hard that will be.

"I'm pleased with the way things have gone over the last year or so, if I keep working as hard hopefully I'll get the rewards and make a mark with the first team."


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