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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 21 November, 2017
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The ex-Irish underage international who is building quite a coaching reputation in the US

James O’Connor has brought a USL championship to Louisville City in just his third season in charge.

ON MONDAY NIGHT, Louisville City were crowned United Soccer League (USL) champions for the very first time.

Essentially the second-tier of the game in North America, the side from Kentucky got their hands on the trophy after a dramatic 1-0 win over Slope Park Rangers.

In front of over 14,ooo, it was finally some recognition after a number of impressive years.

Only in operation since 2015, Louisville have consistently been there or thereabouts. In their very first season, they reached the Eastern Conference final but were beaten by the eventual champions. Last year, it was a similar story. They lost in a penalty shootout in their Conference decider to New York Red Bulls II, who would go on and taste overall success.

Still, they got there in the end and have an Irishman to thank for it.

James O’Connor is a former Republic of Ireland Under-19 and Under-21 international and racked up over 500 league appearances for the likes of Stoke, West Brom, Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday.

The Dubliner spent the final years of his playing career with Orlando City, prior to the team’s move to Major League Soccer, and then started to concentrate on coaching.

Louisville is his very first management role and considering the immediate results he’s brought to the club, it seems inevitable other teams will sit up and start taking some notice.

Speaking to The42 recently, the team’s midfielder Niall McCabe – another Dub – was glowing in his praise.

“Having James as a gaffer…I can’t say enough about him. Meticulous. He has all his bases covered. He works so hard and allows us to really express ourselves. And that’s a big part of how we play.”

MLS seems like a logical next step for O’Connor but he may have to bide his time.

Up until recently, there was a vacancy at the New England Revolution but that’s since been filled by Brad Friedel.

Meanwhile, Colorado Rapids, who boast Padraig Smith as interim General Manager and Sporting Director – seem intent on bringing in current manager New Zealand Anthony Hudson.

O’Connor does have a close relationship with Orlando but, in spite of them failing to make the play-offs this season, Jason Kreis has only been in charge there since the summer of 2016 and doesn’t seem to be under too much pressure just yet.

Still only 38, there’s plenty of time for O’Connor to decide his next move. But with Louisville’s championship a really impressive calling card, he won’t be short on offers.

Buy The42’s new book, Behind The Lines, here:

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‘I wanted out of Ireland – it’s been night and day compared to back home’

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