Preston’s latest Irish recruit Kevin O’Connor has been backed to make an impact at Deepdale by ex-Lilywhites winger Kevin Kilbane.
O’Connor’s move to PNE from Cork City was given the green light yesterday.
The left-back has signed a three-year contract and moves for an undisclosed fee.
He will join up with the North End squad together with Cork team-mate Sean Maguire – who agreed his move last month – on July 24.
Preston-born Kilbane, who started his career with PNE and made 110 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, is now based in Dublin.
He has watched a lot of League of Ireland football and O’Connor is a player to have caught his eye.
Kilbane told the Post: “At the start of his career I saw him play quite a few games in the centre of midfield for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s.
“He has since moved out to the left and can operate as a left-back, a wing-back or a wide midfielder.
“When I watch matches, being a former winger I do tend to have a look at players on that side of the pitch.
“O’Connor has got really good ability, he has matured physically and I think he will do very well at Preston.
“He has learned a lot in the last couple of years and still has more learning to do.”
O’Connor is the fourth player PNE have recruited from the League of Ireland in the last six months.
Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle joined from Dundalk in January, with Maguire putting pen to paper a few weeks ago.
With Alan Browne having joined from Cork in 2014, and Greg Cunningham and Eoin Doyle both having started off in Irish football, there is a strong Irish contingent in the Deepdale dressing room.
Said Kilbane: “The League of Ireland is very competitive and that is the value of it.
“I think a lot of younger players benefit from playing in it more than they would in an academy set-up.
“You are finding that a lot of Irish lads are maturing a lot better in this league.
“It is a great market for Preston to be shopping in and there are some good players to be had.”
O’Connor and Maguire have been allowed to stay with Cork until late July, allowing them to help push Cork closer to the league title and to play Europa League football.
PNE are pressing ahead with player recruitment as the search begins for Simon Grayson’s successor.
A shortlist is being put together from a list of candidates, with a view to moving to the interview stage after the weekend.
Ideally, they want their new man in place by the back end of the week but if needs be would wait a little longer for the right candidate.