20 year-old Republic of Ireland defender Paudie O’Connor has been tipped in the Daily Mirror to extend his deal at Leeds United. The former Limerick defender has made quite the rise at Elland Road after coming to Leeds last spring on trial. He was included in preseason training by former coach Thomas Christiansen, but was sent back to the U23s before the beginning of the season.
O’Connor captained the U23s, and was a vital cog in the team that went on an impressive undefeated run in the second half of the season. He also made his senior debut after a number of injuries to first team defenders.
Irish youngster Paudie O'Connor starts for Leeds today at centre-back. First team debut for the Whites. pic.twitter.com/XLRDFIi4bu— Barry O'Mahony (@barryomahony4) April 7, 2018
Once he made his debut, however, O’Connor impressed greatly, putting in some quality performances. He made his debut for Leeds against Sunderland on 7 April, and also played in matches against Preston North End, Aston Villa, and Barnsley FC. Paul Heckingbottom even singled him out for praise, saying,
I’ve been pleased. We had him in with us a couple of weeks before he got his chance because we knew we were low on numbers there and just in case. As it turned out it was a good job really because we had to throw him in and he felt more comfortable with the group.
He’s a person who one of his strengths is his character and you never really know how people are going to do until you put them in.
He’s not been fazed which is the important thing.
It had sounded as if O’Connor was frustrated with a lack of first team appearances back in December, but now that he’s been given a chance in the first team, and impressed, it would be surprising to see him leave the club. O’Connor is one of the young players that came up and impressed during the last part of the season under Heckingbottom, along with Tom Pearce and Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Hopefully O’Connor can impress new boss Marcelo Bielsa enough to once again get some first team action this season. Despite some impressive performances, Heckingbottom put O’Connor back on the bench, preferring to play Everton loanee Matthew Pennington over him, much to the annoyance of many Leeds fans, who would have rather seen O’Connor in the side over Pennington. We’ll see what happens during preseason.