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Louth to be without Eoin O’Connor for 2018 season

Standout performer this summer is travelling to Asia and leaving Pete McGrath’s side

Louth’s Eoin O’Connor holds off Donal Keogan of Meath during their Leinster championship encounter. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Newly appointed Louth manager Pete McGrath will be without the services of Eoin O’Connor for the 2018 season.

The St Patrick’s clubman was Louth’s top scorer from play in this year’s championship with 2-2 in three games. After earning league promotion to Division Two, Meath ended the Wee County’s Leinster ambitions before Longford knocked them out of the qualifiers in late June.

O’Connor’s performance in the first round win over Wicklow was described by then-manager Colin Kelly as “immense. He’s an outstanding talent.”

Kelly’s replacement will have to make do without that talent however, with the 25 year-old attacker having departed for Asia (and then Australia) earlier this week.

“I’m doing some travelling around south east Asia to start off my trip,” O’Connor told The Irish Times. “I’ll hopefully do that for eight weeks or so and then on to Melbourne in the new year. I always wanted to backpack, my girlfriend is now qualified as a teacher and she always wanted to do it too, and my best friend had just returned. So the stories were all good and encouraging.

“I had some good experience working in banking from before I left - and I was on a short term contract - so I felt the time was right. The club football was over early unfortunately so I had no commitments there - Aoife understood the football situation so we organised to go once it was all over.

“I hope to go for a year and if everything works out with work etc we’ll see what happens then.”

Within the off-season managerial merry-go-round, Kelly has moved on and taken the Westmeath job, while McGrath fills the Louth vacancy after four years with Fermanagh. O’Connor predicts that the two-time All-Ireland winning manager with Down will have a positive impact on a talented squad.

“I think the new management will do well this year,” said the former Sigerson Cup winner and scholarship recipient with DCU. The Louth attacker scored 0-2 from midfield in the 2015 Sigerson Cup final.

“Colin (Kelly) had a successful term, I don’t think anyone can doubt that. Two promotions back to back, he’s a good manager and I have a lot of time for him.

“I missed the first league promotion because I was away at the time, but I really enjoyed the journey this past year. It’s always good putting the county jersey on, and I enjoyed my football again- which is why we should be playing.”

O’Connor has won four senior Louth club championships, and the rangy full-forward made his county debut in 2012. He made his championship debut three years later. In this year’s league campaign he scored 1-10 in five starts.

“We didn’t have a good championship this summer and I’m not sure why, maybe Pete will be able to tweak one or two things and the boys might get some joy. There is certainly a great squad there and some good characters and friends. I wish them the best of luck going forward.”