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Damien O’Brien takes over as Corona del Mar boys’ soccer coach

Damien O’Brien takes over as Corona del Mar boys’ soccer coach
Four months after Corona del Mar High's season ended with a 3-0 loss at Santa Ana in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Feb. 16, the Sea Kings hired Damien O'Brien as their new coach. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Damien O’Brien has coached club soccer for most of his 23 years in the United States.

When the Corona del Mar High boys’ soccer coaching position opened in May, the Irishman knew this was the high school job he wanted.

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O’Brien applied for it, and on Tuesday, he said he got it.

The Sea Kings hired O’Brien, who will make his debut as a high school head varsity coach next season. The 50-year-old said he began coaching soccer in Ireland in 1988, mostly adults.

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Thirty years later, O’Brien is excited to lead teenagers.

O’Brien, a walk-on coach, replaces George Larsen, who stepped down as CdM’s coach in May. Larsen guided the Sea Kings for nine seasons, winning a CIF Southern Section Division IV title, a CIF Southern California Regional Division II title, and five Pacific Coast League championships.

“I consider this the best job interview [and] job I’ve ever gone for in my life,” O’Brien said. “I consider [the] CdM soccer varsity coach to be the most important job in Orange County because of two reasons. I emigrated here from Dublin, Ireland, in ’95, and I fell in love with CdM. I’ve been living in CdM … since 1997. I’m embedded in the community. I’ve coached in this Newport-CdM [area] for the last 20 years. It just seemed it was a natural progression of my coaching [career].”

O’Brien’s son, Luca, also attends CdM. O’Brien said Luca, an incoming junior, plays water polo at the school, not soccer.

O’Brien takes over a CdM program that finished 14-6-1 overall and took second place in the league at 7-3-0 last season. The Sea Kings’ campaign ended with a 3-0 loss at Santa Ana in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

Next season the Sea Kings will play in the Sunset League for the first time. They went 63-14-13 in Pacific Coast League play under Larsen.

While O’Brien has made a career of coaching club soccer in Orange County, he served two years as an assistant with the Estancia girls’ soccer team after he arrived from Ireland.

“I always wanted to get involved in the high school [game],” O’Brien said. “The girls were not great natural soccer players, but the whole experience of being involved with the high school level, I think it’s so much different than club soccer. If you’re in the middle school [at CdM], plus high school [at CdM], you’re there for six years, where club players can come and go as they want.”

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