O'Connor joins rising Irish Gunners brigade
THE Irish contingent behind the scenes at Premier League giants Arsenal has grown further, with the club confirming that another former international rugby player has joined their strength and conditioning team as an intern.
Johnny O'Connor will join Jerry Flannery on a placement at the north London club's academy as pre-season preparations continue. Both ex-players are expected to be at the club for the duration of the upcoming 2013/'14 campaign.
Connacht openside O'Connor (above) retired from rugby at the end of last season after a career that saw him play 12 times for Ireland and win two Heineken Cups, two English Premierships and a Powergen Cup while playing for Wasps. He was Ireland's players' player of the year in 2005.
He has a degree in strength and conditioning and, like Flannery, worked with Arsenal Academy head of sports medicine and athletic development Des Ryan at Connacht.
The Irish Independent yesterday revealed that Flannery had joined up with Arsenal and the club last night confirmed that both men had been appointed as interns for the season and said that they were "proud to have" the former Ireland stars.
Flannery last night tweeted about his role for the first time. He wrote: "First impressions, honored (sic) to be here, great club, great people. Next up some big tackles & big throw-ins."
A spokesperson for Arsenal said: "To confirm, we have both Jerry Flannery and Johnny O'Connor starting internships with us at our Youth Academy."
"Both will obviously be gaining valuable experience in sports medicine, and we are very proud that they will be working with us."
Once famed for their large number of Irish players – such as Frank Stapleton, David O'Leary and Liam Brady – the Gunners have quite a cadre of back-room staff from this country.
Brady heads up their academy, former Ireland rugby doctor Gary O'Driscoll is part of the club's medical team along with physio Declan Lynch, while former U-21 international Kwame Ampadu is a youth-team coach.