Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Portugal: O’Connor determined to seize chance with both hands

By James Tait

Michael O’Connor believes he wasn’t handed an opportunity to shine at international level by former Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington.

 

The Rotherham midfielder, who is part of current boss Michael O’Neill’s squad to face Portugal and Luxembourg, was consistently left out by Worthington for both competitive and friendly matches and is keen to cement his place.

“I don’t think I was given a chance by Nigel,” he said.

“There were times like when I played against San Marino when we won 4-0 and I played well and then the next game he played me for 45 minutes.

“Things weren’t going well and I was the one to get dragged off but I don’t think Nigel gave me much of a chance.

“I think Michael gives players chances as you’ve seen with the young lads so it’s down to me now,” commented O’Connor.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d play again — three years out is a long time.

“I’ve needed to work hard as I didn’t think I was fit enough the past two years but I’ve got my head down, I’m injury-free and I’m playing well for my club.

“I just want to play. I don’t mind if I play against Portugal or Luxembourg, I just want to get out there and play again.

“I want to put the shirt on and give it my best,” he stated.

O’Connor won the last of his 10 caps in a friendly against Morocco in 2010.

The former Northern Ireland under-20 captain has played a significant part at the start of Rotherham’s 2013/14 campaign.

Having been promoted to League One at the end of last season, the Belfast man has played in all seven league and cup games so far.

The Millers currently sit fifth in the table without losing a league game, but O’Connor accepts he faces a difficult task to get into the Northern Ireland line-up.

“It’s going to be tough after the last game (against Russia) as all the lads did well,” O’Connor added.

“There’s a player pulled out injured and Grant (McCann) has pulled out and I don’t know whether he is coming back or not, but it gives me a chance now,” he explained.

“I just have to keep playing well for my club — I’ve done well so far this season.

“Michael said to me yesterday I’ve done well in training so hopefully I get my chance soon enough,” O’Connor said.

“I’m happy enough to sit on the bench at the minute because I can’t expect to play the next game after the lads were unbelievable in the last performance.

“It’s going to be another tough game but Windsor Park was bouncing last time.

“It’s been quiet the past number of years so hopefully the fans can get behind us and the lads can put in a performance.”

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