Leeds United’s young Irish central defender Paudie O’Connor gave an interview recently with the Limerick Leader in Ireland. The 20 year-old touched on many topics in the interview, but the part that most Leeds fans would find interesting would be his quotes on playing in the U23s and his desire for first team football in the near future.
O’Connor came over to Leeds United last March after playing in the first team at Limerick FC in both the Premier Division and the second division in the Republic of Ireland. He started his career in the youth set-up at Limerick, but quickly made his way into the first team. He was even in the team of year for the First Division in 2016 as a teenager, as Limerick FC gained promotion at the end of the 2016 season in their first attempt after being relegated the previous season.
O’Connor says that he had interest from a variety of English sides, including Premier League teams Leicester City and Crystal Palace, but ultimately he chose Leeds because of the comfort level he felt at the club. He also stated that he’s learned lots at the U23s so far this season, but he feels that he needs to be challenging for first team football saying,
I played with the U-23s, got on the bench for the first team a couple of times for a few of the League Cup games.
It was nice to be involved, but going forward, in the next couple of months, I will probably be looking for first team football again because if it doesn't come at Leeds maybe somewhere else because the U-23s is good and all, but there is not that level of competitiveness that I am used to or like.
However, don’t panic Leeds fans, as he understands that a loan option might be the best option for him at this time.
Going forward, I would like to be back playing first team.
There is always the loan option as well. You can get a season-long loan, so we will see what options are on the table, I won't be jumping into anything without thinking over.
As you say, I have Stephen Hunt, the former Irish international, looking after me. He is my agent. He has been good to me. He lives in Birmingham, not too far away from me.
He is up every second week really if I have a game or just to have a chat.
Stephen, myself and my Dad will sit down and assess the options. I can't complain. My time so far has been enjoyable and I have learned a lot
So while the young Irish defender may be looking for first team football, he knows he’s behind Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper, and Matthew Pennington in the pecking order at the club. For a player who had been playing in the first team in Ireland, he might need a more challenging environment than the U23s to develop. He seems open to the idea of a loan and that might be for the best, as the young defender doesn’t need to sit on the bench for the first team. Additionally, the inclusion of fellow Irishman Conor Shaughnessy in the first team is another roadblock in O’Connor’s path to first team football.
So this interview was probably granted by the player at the advice of his agent, Stephen Hunt. While it’s not great to hear a young player complain about the lack of first team opportunities, he seems to recognize that he isn’t going to get into the first team at the club right now. Plus, it’s still better to hear that a young player wants to challenge for the first team, and what else is he going to say, that he likes playing in the reserves? It’s good to see him want more responsibility, and behind the scenes, his agent might be looking at loan deals for the young player. Expect him to go on loan in League One or League Two sometime during the January transfer window.