Belfast Telegraph

Linfield striker Michael O'Connor set to decide future after sensational Glentoran swoop

The forward must choose between a Big Two move or a shift to League Two

Linfield forward Michael O'Connor.
Linfield forward Michael O'Connor.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Striker Michael O'Connor will not be returning to Linfield this month and instead has a big choice on his hands, including the prospect of a sensational switch to the Blues' Big Two rivals.

The 21-year-old went on loan to Waterford during the summer as part of the deal that brought Bastien Hery to Windsor Park.

It had been expected that O'Connor would return to the Blues squad in the January transfer window but the Belfast Telegraph understands that the Republic of Ireland U21 international will not play for the club again.

Instead, Big Two rivals Glentoran are attempting to lure O'Connor to east Belfast. The club have met Linfield's £10k asking price to complete the deal this month, although Linfield are unwilling to let the forward depart for their bitter rivals.

If the move is not done in this window, another option open to the player is a pre-contract agreement with the Glens, with the remainder of the season spent back on loan at Waterford.

It's with the south east side that O'Connor's other options lies. Waterford chairman Lee Power is also the chief at English League Two side Swindon Town.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that, should O'Connor reject the Glens, there is an option of going back to Waterford for the first half of the 2020 League of Ireland season, signing a pre-contract agreement to join Swindon in the summer.

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O'Connor did sample life across the water in November, when he was handed a week-long trial at Hibernian, also playing as a guest in a reserve game for the Scottish Premiership side.

O'Connor scored nine Danske Bank Premiership goals for Linfield in the 18/19 season. Should he move to Glentoran, he would link up with brother Ciaran, who signed for the club at the start of December.

The last big-name transfer tussle between the rival clubs came in January 2014, when Glentoran defender Jimmy Callacher signed a pre-contract with rivals Linfield, before making a £10k immediate move later that month.

In January 2018, Glens forward Jonathan Smith was forced to see out the season on loan at Carrick Rangers after signing a pre-contract agreement with the Blues.

It remains to be seen how this similar transfer battle will be resolved, with Waterford and Swindon providing a further obstacle for the Glens to overcome.

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