Michael O’Connor has announced his intention to switch allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.
The former Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers striker is currently plying his trade at Linfield represented the Republic of Ireland at under-19 level where he scored in a win over Austria back in 2016.
Many are surprised by O’Connor’s intentions given that his former manager, Stephen Kenny has just been appointed the under-21s manager and will step up into the senior job after Euro 2020.
The Linfield striker was born in Dundalk but qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandmother who was born in Belfast.
“It is true that I’ve declared for Northern Ireland” O’Connor told the Belfast Telegraph
“My nanny Patricia is from Dundalk like me but she was born in Belfast, and I think it is the right decision for me, so going forward hopefully I will be playing.
“I just turned 20 in July so I can play in the next campaign for the under-21s, and hopefully if I’m doing things right and scoring goals fro Linfield I’ll get the nod.”
Players swapping allegiance between the two Irish states has become a regular occurrence over the last number of years. However, the move normally sees players choosing to play for the Republic of Ireland instead of Northern Ireland, prime examples of this are James McClean and Shane Duffy.
O’Connor’s decision to go in the opposite direction will come as a shock to many people, but he is not the first. His ex-Dundalk teammate Darren Meenan has declared for ‘the North’ as well as Leyton Orient’s Dale Gorman.
The striker began his footballing journey with famous schoolboys side St. Kevin’s Boys before moving to Bristol City. He returned to play with Dundalk however in 2015, making his debut in a Champions League qualifier against Legia Warsaw.
His time at Dundalk didn’t quite turn out ho O’Connor would have wanted. After only one goal in three appearances, he made the move to Shamrock Rovers where he made 24 appearances before joining Finn Harps on loan.
He left to join Linfield six months later and was recently granted a one-year extension after impressing in the Irish League.