Motherwell defender Darragh O’Connor says his loan move to Queen of the South is all about earning his next contract – whether that’s at Fir Park or elsewhere.
The Irish centre-back joined Graham Alexander’s side last summer from Leicester City and despite performing well in the Premier Sports Cup group stages, only mustered one Premiership appearance in the first half of this season.
Injuries played their part and after his fitness return, O’Connor had a chat with Alexander over a loan move, opting to swap Premiership football for Championship strugglers Queen of the South.
The Palmerston side have just lost manager Allan Johnston as they look to preserve their status in Scotland’s second tier, seven points from safety and four off the relegation play-off spot.
O’Connor is out of contract in the summer and he hopes to prove he is able to become a regular Motherwell. If not, he hopes others take note of him.
He said: “I got a 12-month contract at Motherwell so that is me into the final six months of that. I’m playing for a contract right now, whether that’s at Motherwell or somewhere in England.
“It might be at another Premiership or Championship side. That’s the way I am looking at it. I want to play as many games as possible to show Motherwell I deserve a new contract.
“Then if there are other teams interested, that’s just a bonus for me.”
It’s not glamourous, but having already experienced senior football back in Ireland with Wexford, O’Connor is happy to be involved in the rough and tumble of a relegation fight in Dumfries.
He explained: “I spoke to the gaffer (Alexander) in November and said I want to play for Motherwell. But if I am not, I asked to get out on loan for games.
“He said to reassess in January. I didn’t know whether I’d be fit enough by the end of January but I then had a positive conversation with him. I told him I needed games and he agreed.
“I thought the right move would be to go to a team that’s in Scotland so the club could keep an eye on me. A few Championship clubs were interested in taking me.
“At Queen’s, I know the league position, and that they were crying out for a centre-back. I am a defender so I don’t want to be cruising through games. I want to defend and we need to defend at Queen’s. “
Injuries were a factor for the 22-year-old in the first half of this season. One of them was a knee injury and he is grateful it wasn’t anything major.
O’Connor added: “I started well. I played the first four League Cup games and I thought I did well. I thought I did well enough to start the first Premiership game of the season.
“The gaffer didn’t see it that way and called upon Bevis Mugabi, who has been outstanding this season, so I can’t complain about that. Then injuries hampered me.
“That was the first six months. It was just training and trying to get into the team. I damaged a nerve in my hamstring and was out for a month with that.
“I came back and trained away. Then in November, I went in for a 50-50 challenge with Liam Grimshaw in training, and did ligament damage to my knee.
“I asked the physio to see if my ACL was in tact, as if it was that, I am out for potentially 12 months. It wasn’t that so I looked at the positives.
“I think it was just short of six weeks out. It was frustrating but there is no point getting upset about it. I took the good of playing the first four games with the bad of injury.
“The good was then getting back and feeling fitter than ever, then bad came again with injury. It’s now good to be out on loan. Football is a rollercoaster. There’s no point getting too down.”
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