Mature O’Connor has a difficult decision to make

SHANE O’Connor faces the biggest dilemma of his young footballing life as he decides whether to call time on his Ipswich Town career.

The marauding full-back became a popular player among fans during Roy Keane’s reign before falling out of favour in Paul Jewell’s six months at the club.

Now after being omitted from the 23-man squad that travelled to the Netherlands for this week’s pre-season tour, O’Connor’s future seems set to be away from Portman Road.

An affable youngster, O’Connor displayed admirable maturity in summing up his situation. But while not wanting to bleat, clearly the 21-year-old is determined to prove he can cut it at this level.

He said: “I’m not happy not playing but I love it here and the fans have been brilliant with me. It would be very hard to leave but the problem I have is that I only have a year left on my deal.

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“I have not played a lot of games in the last six months and it would be very tough to go another year without playing much. I think I could do well in the Championship but different managers like different things and you have to respect that.”

O’Connor’s sudden breakthrough into Keane’s starting line-up in February 2010 was a breath of fresh air during a rather stale period in Town’s recent history.

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Having impressed in the reserves, the former Liverpool schoolboy got his chance against Sheffield Wednesday and didn’t look back, finishing his first full season with 11 starts under his belt.

Of his former manager, O’Connor said: “For me, Roy Keane was brilliant. I could have been out of football if it wasn’t for him so I owe him so much.

“He gave me a chance, he brought me to a very good club and I hope he goes on and gets the right job.”

As with Keane, last season was one to forget with O’Connor making just four full appearances and a further five from the bench. A rare highlight came in the Suffolk snowstorm in December when Town beat Leicester – and the elements – 3-0 in a farcical match.

O’Connor was arguably man of the match but with Jewell replacing Keane soon after, it was his last competitive start for Ipswich.

And after failing to make the trip to Holland, instead skippering a largely Academy side against Haverhill Rovers, O’Connor admitted: “I would have preferred to have been in Holland but you have to do as you are told and it was good to get 90 minutes under my belt.”

- Russell Osman paid tribute to the professionalism shown by young Shane O’Connor and Ronan Murray after the pair were forced to train with the Under-18s this week.

The duo were not selected by Paul Jewell for the pre-season tour of the Netherlands, instead being the stand-out names in a Town XI’s 2-1 win at Ridgeons League Premier Division Haverhill Rovers.

But Osman was full of praise for how the duo, the most experienced in a youthful Town side on Wednesday night, got their heads down rather than sulk about the decision.

Osman, who took charge of the Town XI, said: “Shane and Ronan have shown fantastic attitude to training and they have been a credit to themselves in the way they have gone about their work.

“It is difficult for them, not being on the first team tour and instead working with the younger players, but their attitude has been top class and very professional. I am sure Paul would have expected no different.”

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