Belfast Telegraph

'It's been weird': New Glentoran signing Ciaran O'Connor explains hectic start to life as a dad

New Glentoran attacker Ciaran O'Connor says he's a changed man after the birth of his twin daughters Ava and Mia.
New Glentoran attacker Ciaran O'Connor says he's a changed man after the birth of his twin daughters Ava and Mia.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

When Glentoran welcome their newest signing to training on Monday morning, they'll be getting a brand new Ciaran O'Connor.

The 23-year-old was signed at the Oval off the back of a series of impressive performances for Warrenpoint Town but O'Connor is a changed man even since departing Milltown less than six weeks ago.

It was after Barry Gray's first game in charge that the attacking midfielder's sudden departure from the club was announced.

Since then, he and partner Gillian have welcomed twin daughters Ava and Mia into the world.

Now over four weeks old, the girls are 'thriving' but their dad is still getting to grips with the 'weird' nature of fatherhood.

Things haven't exactly been straight forward, helping to explain his abrupt departure from Point, less than two days after playing in a Premiership fixture at Carrick Rangers.

Gillian was taken into hospital at only 29 weeks pregnant and five weeks before the girls were born when the water broke around one of the twins.

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"She was a high risk for infection so they had to keep her in all that time but she was amazing," says a proud O'Connor.

"That made the decision to leave Warrenpoint easier. The football had all started to get a bit much. Warrenpoint were training three nights a week and even whenever Stephen (McDonnell - former Point boss) was still at the club, we were having conversations because it was hectic. I knew with the babies coming along, it wasn't going to work.

"For weeks I was going straight from work to the hospital and just getting home for midnight to get up early next morning and go back to work. Then two weeks before the birth, Gillian was moved to the Rotunda in Dublin so that made things even more difficult."

The twins were born at just 34 weeks - six weeks premature - but since their difficult arrival, all has gone well.

"It's been weird," Ciaran continued. "I'm not sure it has really hit home yet. We're still trying to find our routine in terms of feeding both of the girls and things like that. We're getting there and the girls are absolutely thriving so that's all you can ask for. It's hectic but because they're our first, we don't know any different than twins."

Glentoran's contract offer enabled O'Connor to leave his job as a sales rep earlier this week, preparing to report to the Oval on Monday and begin the next chapter.

It's not his first taste of full-time football, having been a professional during his years at hometown club Dundalk, but he's hoping his new life experiences will help spell more on-field success this time round.

"I've never had a responsibility like this before," he explained. "When I was full-time at Dundalk, I was getting a few quid and spending it like mad but now I know I have to save money.

"I know whenever I go to work at Glentoran, I'm working for my kids and for the family, not for myself. It's a big responsibility and I have to grasp this opportunity.

"I probably didn't appreciate full-time football enough when I was younger. I took it for granted. It wasn't until I had to work 40 hours a week and then play my football on top that I realised what real life is like. It gave me a real kick up the backside.

"I was left thinking that I should have taken my chance in full-time football when I had it but the good thing is I'm still only 23 and I've got another crack at it."

It was O'Connor's relationship with assistant manager Paul Millar that helped bring him to Glentoran, where he's hoping he'll be able to showcase his attacking talents more easily than he could at Warrenpoint.

But the move, of course, also means a Big Two rivalry with brother Michael, who is set to return to Linfield when the window opens in January after a loan spell at Waterford.

"He's not very happy about me joining the Glens," smiles big brother Ciaran. "There have been a few rows already. We've always slagged each other off. Michael's Michael and he's a bit mad. He's already going on about how he's going to see me in March at the first derby.

"I think mum's going to have to segregate us coming up to that one. She'll probably just go along with whoever gets the three points and jump on the bandwagon."

The next chapter begins on Monday, the first as Daddy O'Connor.

Now success on the pitch means more.

Those '100 million nappies' aren't going to buy themselves.

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