EOGHAN O’CONNELL is hoping to become a mainstay in the Brendan Rodgers Revolution at Celtic – and earn a new long-term contract.
The talented Irishman has made a surprise start to the campaign by seizing his opportunity with fellow-central defenders Erik Sviatchenko, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata sidelined through injury.
O’Connell, who played a handful games on loan at Cork City last season, made his European debut in the 1-1 draw with Astana in Kazakhstan and Rodgers preferred him to the erratic Efe Ambrose when he teamed him up with Mikael Lustig in the return leg.
There was a start, too, for the smooth back-four operator in the Premiership kick-off when he was paired with Kolo Toure in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
And O’Connell hopes he does enough to impress Rodgers to remain in contention when the other centre-halves fight their way back to fitness.
He said: “We have always been brought up at Celtic to be comfortable on the ball and take it from the back.
“I have had that since I was young – I used to play in midfield until I was 15 – but it’s something I enjoy, taking the ball under pressure and taking it out from the back.
“That is the way we play here – open and attacking football and I think you need to be able to deal with the ball.
“I don’t believe you have to punt the ball. We have been taught at Celtic to play the most expansive football we can. When I first signed for the club, perhaps one of the strongest parts of my games was to play the game.
“I didn’t really expect this. I have played a few games, but it was always one-in, one-out kind of a thing. I have never really had a run. It is difficult to plant a seed in people’s heads, that you are ready to play, if you are only playing one game.
“I have got this little run now and I’m hoping to prove to people that I am ready and good enough to play here.”
O’Connell could celebrate his 21st birthday by facing up to Inter Milan in the International Champions Cup in Limerick on Saturday night.
His contract runs out at the end of this season and first team coach John Kennedy admitted: “It’s something we’re well aware of.
“Last season was tough on Eoghan because he hardly played any football, but he has come back and has been looking strong.
“So, I’m pretty sure we’ll look at that soon and that the club will sit down with him and his representatives and we’ll see what the outcome is.
“However, he has put himself in a good position with his performances and that’s all we can ask.
“He’s getting to an age where it’s make or break for him in terms of first team at Celtic and you don’t often get the long-term contract.
“Kieran Tierney has come in and got one after doing the business and Eoghan is still to get to that stage. It’s still early for him but he’s certainly done himself a lot of favours in terms of the way he’s played and performed.”