By Will Butcher

Celtic are closing in on a loan move that will see Eoghan O’Connell join League One side Walsall, according to a report.

HITC Sport claims the 21-year-old defender is set to move south to join the third-tier side, despite reportedly agreeing a move with Scottish rivals Kilmarnock last week.

The Scottish Sun had claimed that O’Connell was to move to Scottish Premiership rivals Kilmarnock, but the latest report suggests that Lee Clark’s side have appeared to have been beaten to the punch.

O’Connell has plummeted down the defender pecking order this season, with Jozo Simunovic, Erik Sviatchenko and Kolo Toure all considered above the academy product.

That means Brendan Rodgers will allow Celtic’s number 34 to jump ship this month, as O’Connell looks to prove to his manager that he deserves a new contract at Parkhead.

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The four-time Ireland Under-21’s international has less than six months remaining on his current deal, and will be hoping a loan move shows Rodgers enough to earn a renewed deal.

Since his Celtic debut back in March 2014 during a 1-1 draw against Ross County, the commanding centre-back has gone on to make 13 senior appearances for the Bhoys.

But O’Connell could now be looking to gain regular first-team football, as he continues t watch from the Celtic Park sidelines under former Liverpool manager Rodgers.

Football Insider verdict:

A loan move for O’Connell would benefit all three parties involved in the move. For O’Connell himself, he will finally be given the chance to play regular first-team football. After short spells with Cork City and Oldham, the defender has made just 22 senior appearances and desperately needs an extended run at senior level to gain some much-needed experience. Walsall would be receiving a player that trains with quality players such as Moussa Dembele, Scott Sinclair and Scott Brown, and will improve the Saddlers defensive options. Celtic would gain an advantage from the move as they would be able to make an educated decision on the future of O’Connell as his contract winds down.

In other Celtic transfer news, the Hoops are set to enter contract talks with this international ace.

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