Cork City have confirmed that Kevin O'Connor has committed to the club ahead of the 2017 SSE Airtricity Premier Division season.
After signing from Waterford United in April 2015, the 21-year-old made 28 league appearances for Jon Caulfield's side in 2016, scoring the winner in the club's Uefa Europa League third qualifying round clash against BK Hacken.
“It’s good to be back; I just wanted to get everything sorted and I am looking forward to next season," said O'Connor, on the club's website. "I think we can kick on from what we did last season and hopefully go one step further in the league this year.”
“There was a huge team spirit in the dressing room last year and hopefully we can build on that. John has obviously made a few new signings, but the bulk of the team will be here again next year, which is good because I think we had a great squad here.
“I think you have to improve every year. You want to get better every game and the ultimate aim is to be the best you can be. I was happy with how last year went, but I won’t be settling for that, I want to go even further this year."
Having secured the services of star striker and "vital cog" Sean Maguire in recent days, Cork manager John Caulfield reckons that tying down O'Connor for another year brings the 2016 runners-up one step closer to foiling Dundalk's four-in-a-row tilt.
“It’s fantastic, we are really delighted. The squad is nearly complete now, and Kevin is another part of that jigsaw," said Caulfield. "We all know how good he is, he came in two years ago, and was very good and he was phenomenal last year. We are looking for him to drive on again next year and be even better.
“He was part of the cup winning team, he saw the celebrations and he saw what a huge role he had for us this year. It is important for us to retain our top players, which we have done, and Kevin is another one of those.
“We have our back five from last season signed up again and Kevin was the final cog in that. He is a talented young player and he is hungry for success, and that is why it was vital for us to keep him.”
The renewed committment expressed by O'Connor and Maguire continues what has been a positive off-season thus far for the Leesiders, who have also imported both Achille Campion and Jimmy Keohane from Sligo Rovers, while the versatile Conor McCormack has also arrived from Derry City.