Ross County: Michael O'Connor 'grown up' from gambling past - Stuart Kettlewell

By Clive LindsayBBC Sport Scotland
Michael O'Connor (right) on trial with Hibernian
Michael O'Connor (right) was on trial with Hibernian last November

New signing Michael O'Connor has put behind him the gambling habit that scuppered a move to Burnley, says Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell.

The 22-year-old striker signed a two-year contract last week in a transfer from Waterford.

O'Connor has previously suggestedexternal-link that his gambling ended a chance to move to England in 2017.

"We've all had a history, but I think he's grown up - I think he's matured," Kettlewell said.

"It was one we probably looked at about 18 months ago - Michael probably wasn't at the right stage of his life to make the move. I genuinely believe he is now."

O'Connor, who began his career with local club Dundalk before joining Shamrock Rovers, had two loan spells back to the League of Ireland with Waterford from Linfield before making the move permanent this summer.

However, the stay was short-lived and he moved to County with his former side sitting third in the Premier Division and having contributed three goals - all in his the final five of 12 appearances - during 2020.

"I would rather work with someone with that wee bit of personality and that wee bit of bite about them," Kettlewell said.

"All we ask of Michael is that he comes in here and gives us his all on a daily basis and, if he does that, he's got half a chance to succeed in his career at Ross County."

Kettlewell compared O'Connor's style to that of former County forward Brian Graham, with an eye for goal and a liking for physical contact, but stressed that "we've got a bit of work to do to get him up to full speed".

"We always like to have some kind of project on the go - a Ross Stewart-type of person you bring in, he's certainly not the finished article and you try to progress them through their career," the County manager said.

Meanwhile, responding to reports linking Stewart with MK Dons, Kettlewell insisted there had been no contact from any clubs in the two weeks since he revealed that there had been a couple of fresh offers for the forward that fell far short of County's valuation.

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