Irish soccer player hits $1.2M lottery jackpot

Kevin O'Connor's uncle gifted him winning ticket

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Kevin O'Connor (left) during a Preston North End match in November 2017.

(CNN) - New Year's Day proved quite the rollercoaster for Irish soccer player Kevin O'Connor.

First he watched from the substitutes' bench as his team suffered another defeat in English football's second tier before a big victory came the 22-year-old's way -- a lottery win which would make him a millionaire.

O'Connor, who plays for Preston North End in the second-tier English Football League Championship, was given the winning ticket as a present by his godfather and uncle, Peadar Murphy, who posted the ticket with the message: "I wish you the best of luck."

"We had a game with Middlesbrough on Monday night so I completely put it to the back of my head until after the final whistle," O'Connor, who helped Cork City win the league and cup double last season, told reporters.

"It's been an incredible two days and I don't think the win has sunk in yet."

The Ireland Under-21 defender told reporters that it was his mother, Breda, who had told him that he should check his numbers after the winning ticket was said to have been sold locally. His uncle had bought the ticket at Flanagan's Centra in Castlebridge, County Wexford.

O'Connor returned to Ireland on Tuesday to validate his ticket and then collected his €1,000,000 ($1.2 million) winnings in the National Lottery offices in Dublin.


The left-back said he had "no immediate plans" on how to spend his fortune.

"The important part of today was having my family with me so they will be at the forefront of any plans," he said.

"My main focus at the moment is to help Preston climb the Championship and hopefully challenge for a Premier League spot over the next couple of months."

Preston North End are ninth in the Championship and though they are 21 points behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers they still have hopes of gaining promotion to the English Premier League.

The Mail on Sunday reported in 2016 average basic pay in the Championship -- in the previous season -- was £324,250 per player per year, before appearance money and bonuses.

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