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O’CONNELL CAP HOPE

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EOGHAN O’CONNELL hopes to gatecrash Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland squad – just months after playing for Cork City.

The 20-year-old central defender only made his European debut last week as he played in the 1-1 Champions League qualifying draw against Astana in Kazakhstan.

O’Connell’s loan move to the Airtricity League outfit was cut short because of injury and he made a mere five appearances for his hometown team before returning to Parkhead in the summer.

He also played the first-half of the International Champions Cup against Barcelona in Dublin on Saturday and admitted: “These are big games to be involved in and it’s great for me.

“Last week was my first time in Europe and, hopefully, I can add to that this week.

“I just want to stake a claim for a place in the team and then hold it down. That’s all I’ll be trying to do. I have to keep working hard trying to improve and impress from there. Let’s see where that takes me.”

O’Connell, who played two games on loan for Oldham at the start of last season, has represented his country at Under-19 and 21 level and is being tipped as a future full international.

The youngster said: “People will be watching to see how all the young lads coming through are getting on and, hopefully, all will go well.

“You need to believe in yourself, need to be hard working and also you need a chance. Football is strange. Things can change very quickly.

“Sometimes a chance comes and when it does, you must take it. It’s still very early and I haven’t even played that many games for Celtic.

“I’ve only played one competitive match this season and a lot of that talk is speculation. If it comes, I’ll be delighted, but it’s not something I’m too worried about.”

The 6ft 2in defender believes playing such big games early in the season is a double-edged sword, but insists Brendan Rodgers’ side have enough quality to get the job done against Astana on Wednesday night.

He added: “It was hostile over there, but I thought it was a very good result. We dug in and battled well when we needed to. It was a great experience for me, as well.

“It can be looked on as a bad thing to be playing some of the biggest games of the season so early, but you have to do what you have to do.

“Being at home this week, you have to have confidence and we’ll be looking to progress.”


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