Preston North End teenager excited by his breakthrough into the first-team squad at Deepdale

Preston North End prospect Mikey O’Neill would be forgiven for wishing this season didn’t have to finish.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 8:00 am

It’s been the 17-year-old’s breakthrough campaign at Deepdale, with him having come off the bench twice for the first-team while helping the youth team and reserves lift silverware.

On Tuesday night, O’Neill scored in the youth team’s 4-1 victory over Luton in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup final at Kenilworth Road.

Josh Seary, Finlay Cross-Adair and Aaron Bennett were on target as the youngsters competed the double having won the North West Youth Alliance title last month.

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Preston North End's Mikey O'Neill on the attack against Barnsley at Oakwell

The goal at Luton was O’Neill’s 10th of the campaign at Under-19s level, with another nine goals coming from the attacking midfielder for the reserves in the Central League.

O’Neill will hope to be involved in Ryan Lowe’s squad again on the final day against Middlesbrough, while there is still the Central League Cup final to be contested at some stage.

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Preston North End's youth team complete the double after cup victory over Luton ...

Last month he was offered a professional contract, with his scholarship extended by another year as a safety net option while the pro deal is sorted out.

Reflecting on the season, O’Neill told the Lancashire Post: “I was raring to go from the start of it and I hit the ground running early on.

"I’ve built from there and I would like to think I have got better and better as the season has gone on.

"To have come on in two first-team games was brilliant, a dream come true. I’m grateful to the gaffer that he gave me 15 minutes at Barnsley, it felt like I was properly involved.”

Although he hails from Merseyside, O’Neill is a long-serving member of PNE’s academy.

His 18th birthday in early June will be a landmark anniversary in terms of being at North End.

O’Neill said: “I’m coming up 10 years here, I signed on my eighth birthday, so my 18th will be the anniversary.

"I had my first training session with Preston when I was seven.”

O’Neill has combined playing in the Under-19s with training with Lowe’s senior squad in recent weeks.

“With the youth team having had a few midweek games lately, I’ve tended to train with the first-team on a Friday then play at the weekend and on a Tuesday,” said O’Neill.

"I’ve been with the first-team quite a bit.”