Preston North End youngster Mikey O'Neill cannot put into words what it means after second Championship appearance

Words failed Mikey O’Neill as he reflected on his second Preston North End appearance in their 3-1 win over Barnsley.

By Tom Sandells
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 3:14 pm

The PNE academy player has come up through the ranks at Deepdale and has particularly impressed in the last few months, forcing his way into Ryan Lowe’s first team picture.

With the close of the season quickly coming up, O’Neill is the perfect candidate to invest some minutes into ahead of next season.

O’Neill has been at North End for nearly a decade and is in the final year of his scholarship, though he has already signed a pro deal at the club that will come into effect once his scolarship runs out.

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Preston North End's Mikey O'Neill looks on.

North End were behind against Barnsley when Aiden Marsh opened the scoring but Daniel Johnson drew them back level six minutes later.

He scored again in the second half, both goals of high quality, before Emil Riis made it three.

Lowe’s men created more chances too but failed to find the net, Riis going through one on one and Sean Maguire seeing a shot saved from six yards out after O’Neill had squared the ball to him.

O’Neill also had a chance of his own after breaking free down the right side of the box but he dragged the effort wide of the far post.

After a four minute cameo against Queens Park Rangers on April 9, the 17-year-old was happy to get a longer run in the side and could not put into words how it felt to represent Preston North End.

He said: “Today was like the first time where I've come on and had a proper go at it.

"Words can't describe it and how good it felt. I got on there and felt good to be honest, once I was out there, it was very good.

“I was a little bit disappointed with my chance, I'm sure if it hadn't have been my only shot I might have scored.

"Maybe next time I'll find the back of the net and hopefully I will.

“The gaffer is the type of person that will make me work hard and I'm hoping he's going to help me for a long time in my career and as I'm getting used to playing with the first team, so it'll be good.”

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O’Neill has picked up both the winning and scoring habit this season, with the success of both the PNE U19s and the reserves winning their leagues.

He has featured regularly for both sides and is hoping to secure a treble in the Youth Alliance Cup final against Luton Town on Tuesday.

It is a marked step up for the youngster though and he felt he dealt with the occasion well.

He said: “The team is just full of quality, there are some outstanding players that you saw with DJ's two goals. I'm always learning off them all.

“This is a great grounding for me, I'm only 17 so I could have found it hard. Even though I'm young, I felt I dealt with it well so it can only be a good start and hopefully I can build on it from there.

“The 'keeper made a good save from my pass to Sean Maguire but that's just how it goes sometimes."