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Eircom League: 100 NOT OUT; O'Connor's Goalden Century.

Byline: Michael Scully

BARRY O'Connor has paid tribute to the man he calls his "major influence" after banging in his 100th league goal last week - his father.

O'Connor, who played alongside Roy Keane in the Ireland youths side, played in a World Youth Cup finals and for the Ireland under-21s, has enjoyed a fine career.

The Kildare County striker burst on to the senior scene as a 17-year-old at Shamrock Rovers and went on to win the FAI Cup, the Irish League title and the eircom First Division.

He was delighted to become a member of the One Hundred club against Kilkenny City last weekend, and has dedicated the feat to his dad.

And O'Connor's pedigree is definitely a chip of the old block. He is the son of Shels legend Jimmy, who scored one of the fastest-ever hat-tricks in the game.

"He has always been my major influence on my career," said Barry, who is now 32.

"He has been at most of the games I've played in and I think he has seen most of the goals.

"I remember when I was younger I used to go and watch him when he was playing in the League of Ireland and I wanted to be like him.

"I was made aware of the goals situation when I was on 98 by a journalist and so it's great to reach the 100-goal mark, he's very proud for me."

By his own admission, O'Connor has never been a prolific scorer. He's not the kind of striker who scores 30 goals a season.

Instead, he is a regular 10 goal a season man. So far this term in the First Division, he has scored three, and another three in the League Cup.

He has no intention of winding down despite reaching the landmark figure, either.

"It's been a fabulous career," said O'Connor. "Touch wood, I don't see it ending for another few years.

"It was great to get into the Rovers side, the Irish youths team, then the under-21s. I've also represented the League. I'm thankful for all the honours I've picked up and now the 100 goals.

"I've always seen myself as a striker although at the end of my time at Bray I was playing in the middle of the park, but I've preferred to be in front of goal."

After Rovers and those World Cup finals in Portugal in 1991, O'Connor moved to Drogheda and on to Shelbourne, but that switch didn't work out.

After a stint back at Drogheda he went north to Cliftonville, scoring 16 goals as they won the championship.

After two years he returned, and after a spell at Bray - where he won the FAI Cup - O'Connor was pleased to be able to move to Kildare, who play Galway United tonight.

"I looked on it as a big challenge," he explained. "I was living in Sallins and going up to the Kildare games.

"It was convenient for me and I knew some of the lads like John Ryan, who I played with at Drogheda.

"Dermot Keely was in charge of Kildare and when it was time for me to finish at Bray, I moved there. "I wouldn't have gone if Dermot not been there, but I looked at the signings he made and realised he was serious about this new club.

"It's not in my nature to turn up for a wage and just fade away, play my last days somewhere where success didn't matter."So it was a big challenge for everyone at the club," he added.

"Dermot's gone now but we have a good side here, a good mixture of youth and experience.

"And it was great to be unbeaten with the first series of games coming to an end.

"It will be a tough season. Bray, UCD and Finn Harps are very strong and the likes of Sligo and Galway are still hoping for promotion, so we have to keep it going."

Barry O'Connor

Career Factfile

NAME: Barry O'Connor. CLUB: Kildare County. POSITION: Striker. D.O.B: 17 June, 1972. PREVIOUS CLUBS: Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United, Shelbourne, Cliftonville, Bray Wanderers.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Irish League title, FAI Cup, First Division title. Just reached the 100-goal mark in the eircom League.

CAPTION(S):

Email us at irishsport@mirror.co.uk; KEANE: Mate
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 28, 2004
Words:717
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