Belfast Telegraph

Linfield's Michael O'Connor named in Republic of Ireland U21 panel despite declaring switch to Northern Ireland

Michael O'Connor.
Michael O'Connor.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Linfield striker Michael O'Connor has appeared as a surprise inclusion in Stephen Kenny's first squad as Republic of Ireland U21 boss.

The striker had just last month given an interview claiming that he had 'declared for Northern Ireland'.

However, it is understood that there was no official process undertaken to complete the international switch and the player is now expected to join up with the Republic of Ireland panel to take on the Ireland Amateur team in a friendly at Whitehall Stadium on Wednesday, February 6.

Crusaders forward Ronan Hale has also been included in the panel.

O'Connor, from Dundalk, had previously played for the Republic of Ireland at Under 18 and Under 19 level but last month told the Belfast Telegraph that he was hoping to earn a place in Ian Baraclough's NI U21 panel. O'Connor's grandmother Patricia was born in Belfast, which offers him the opportunity to turn out for Northern Ireland.

Fresh off the back of his two-goal haul in Linfield's win over Newry City on Tuesday, O'Connor has now been named in Kenny's locally-based Republic of Ireland training panel, made up of players from the League of Ireland and Irish League, ahead of the UEFA U21 European Championships qualifying campaign.

Jim Crawford and Keith Andrews have been confirmed as Kenny's assistant managers.

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Republic of Ireland U21 Training squad

Goalkeepers: Conor Kearns (UCD), Ross Treacy (Dundalk)

Defenders: Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Darragh Leahy (Bohemians), Conor McCarthy (Cork City), Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers), Liam Scales (UCD), John Mahon (Sligo Rovers).

Midfielders: Dan Mandriou (Bohemians), Will Fitzgerald (Limerick), Aaron Bolger (Shamrock Rovers), JJ Lunney (Waterford), Jamie Lennon (St. Patrick's Athletic), Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers), Robbie McCourt (Bohemians).

Forwards: Ronan Hale (Crusaders), Neil Farrugia (UCD), Michael O'Connor (Linfield), Will Fitzgerald (Limerick), Zach Elbouzedi (Waterford), Karl O'Sullivan (Limerick).

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