Published: 09:00, 02 September 2019
| Updated: 10:46, 02 September 2019
Tom O’Connor is determined to enjoy his chance in the limelight.
The 20-year-old Irishman joined the Gills on loan from Southampton in time to make his Football League debut in Saturday's win over Bolton.
For the past few years he’s been playing under-23 football for the Saints, turning out in Premier League 2.
“I am delighted to get this opportunity and hopefully I can keep performing,” said the youngster, who played left-back at the weekend.
“I have played under-23s for two or three years, I feel like it’s a good step to get out and play men’s football, for my progress.
"I am 20 now and it is time to start getting into men’s football.
“I can’t play 23s for the rest of my life so it is good to go out and get experience.
“The head of the academy told me Gillingham were interested and said it would be good for me to get a few games. I was happy and it was a no-brainer, really, I just came here to try and prove myself.
“League 1 is a very different environment to Premier League 2, people are playing for their livelihoods, so it was a very good experience.
“You are able to take risks more in Premier League 2 but out there (playing in League 1) under pressure you can’t really take risks. You can’t get away with them as much.”
There was a heart-in-the-mouth moment for O’Connor in the first half, when at 0-0 he lost possession in a dangerous area, but he recovered well and managed to impress Gills boss Steve Evans, who labelled him the team’s star man.
“I got away with that,” he admitted.
“But I was happy enough and it was a nice game for me to make my debut.
“It’s great to be here, it wasn’t an easy game, but we put in a good shift, a good performance and I am just delighted we got the three points.
“We knew we couldn’t underestimate them, we knew if we weren’t fully on it they could cause us a problem, all of the lads showed we were on it and once that first goal went in we grew a bit in confidence.
“This is a new experience for me. I aim to enjoy it and take as much out of it as I can.”
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More by this authorLuke Cawdell