Celtic are reportedly close to agreeing a loan move for a young defender at the club who has yet to make his senior breakthrough.
The Scottish Sun reported that 19-year-old Lee O’Connor is set to be loaned out to Partick Thistle for the remainder of the season, with the Hoops’ first team manager Neil Lennon eager for the youngster to obtain senior experience with a temporary switch to another club.
According to The Scottish Sun, Partick Thistle are among several clubs keeping tabs on the teenager, with Celtic hopeful of agreeing a move for him either elsewhere in Scotland or to the English Football League.
O’Connor joined Celtic from Manchester United at the end of the summer transfer window in 2019 but has yet to make an appearance for the Hoops’ first team. According to The Scottish Sun, he has impressed for the reserve side, for whom he started against Chelsea’s under-23s in a friendly in midweek.
The 19-year-old has the intriguing distinction of playing senior international football before making a competitive first team appearance at club level, having been given his Republic of Ireland debut against New Zealand in November, and he even provided an assist that night.
O’Connor is a versatile defender who has played in every position across the back-line during his youth career. However, he has been unable to gain first team recognition under Lennon even with several Celtic defenders being marked absent at various intervals this season – Hatem Abd Elhamed has been out since November with a groin injury and is set to miss another few weeks (Daily Record), Kristoffer Ajer had groin and knee problems earlier in the campaign (TransferMarkt) and Boli Bolingoli missed several weeks in late 2019 with a hamstring injury (Glasgow Times).
The Irishman has also had his route to the first team blocked by the emergence of another youngster who came to Celtic from Manchester last year. Jeremie Frimpong is also 19 but has forged a place in Lennon’s side, making 10 Premiership appearances thus far and starting eight of their last nine league games.
Frimpong’s emergence can be seen as both encouraging and worrying for O’Connor’s Celtic prospects. The Dutch youngster has shown that Lennon is willing to give youth its fling if he feels a player is good enough but his productive form for the first team (two goals and two assists) has prevented his Irish team-mate from getting his chance for the Hoops’ senior side.
Lennon’s desire for O’Connor to get regular first team action elsewhere is understandable and, with little hope of a Celtic breakthrough right now, it would seem to be in the best interests of all parties concerned if the 19-year-old gets his projected loan move to Partick Thistle.
Celtic fans, do you want to see O’Connor going out on loan to get senior experience? Can you see him breaking through at Parkhead in the manner that Frimpong has done? Comment below with your views!
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