'He'll be better for the experience' - praise for ex-Limerick defender O'Connor following Leeds debut

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O'Connor was part of the Limerick side that won the 2016 First Division, scoring twice in the league. Credit: Steve Alfred


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Former Limerick defender Paudie O'Connor was a surprise name in the starting line-up for Leeds United's Championship game against Sunderland at Elland Road today.

O'Connor started – while Ireland under-19 international Callum Nicell was an unused substitute – as Pedro Hernandez's late equaliser cancelled out Paddy McNair's stunning opener.

The 20-year-old acquitted himself well alongside the experienced Pontus Jansson, and even adapted when Leeds changed to a back three as they chased the game for the final 25 minutes.

“He can be pleased with that,” said Leeds manager Paul Heckingbottom, speaking after the game.

“In fairness to Paudie, when I made the changes I knew that I was exposing him to a lot more one-on-ones.

“It meant he would have to be confronting the winger more than we would have liked. We'd have liked to give him more protection all game, but he'll be better for the experience.”

O'Connor has been on the fringes of the first-team squad at the Yorkshire club since making the move from the League of Ireland at the beginning of last year.

Rangy centre-half O'Connor has spent the better part of the past 18 months involved with Leeds' under-23s but has been promoted to the first team due to an injury crisis.

He spent two seasons with Limerick's first team after coming through the club's under-19 structure having joined from Regional United.

Also on the books at Elland Road is former Mervue United defender Conor Shaughnessy, but he's been injured for the past couple of months, while captain Liam Cooper is also unavailable.