Aghada GAA chairman Jimmy O’Leary has said the late Kieran O’Connor “will be sorely missed but never forgotten”.
The 41-year old father of three and 2010 All-Ireland winning Cork footballer will be laid to rest this afternoon following a private funeral mass at St Erasmus Church in Aghada.
Paying tribute to O’Connor, who passed away on Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, O’Leary remarked that he was “fierce proud to be able to say that Kieran O’Connor was my friend”.
“I admire him for the way he conducted himself, not only during his playing career but in how he dealt with the very serious medical issue he had. He did it with dignity,” said the Aghada club chairman.
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“The loss of Kieran O'Connor is immense to Aghada. His father served as chairman, all his brothers played for the club, and then Kieran served his time from four years of age on the pitch in Rostellan, going on to become the footballer he was. He is an immense loss to all who knew him.
“Our thoughts are with his wife, Sinéad, and their three children. They were really an important part of Kieran's life.
During the difficult time he had the past couple of years with the illness, he was so strong for his family.
O’Leary recalled the happiness brought to O’Connor by Frere Fontaine’s victory at Limerick racecourse on December 28 of last year, a horse which he part-owned.
“Kieran was a syndicate member and we had a magical day that day, it was a great win. There were close to 100 people from Aghada up there in Limerick when the horse won.
“It was great to see him out as he always had a big interest in the horses. The delight on Kieran's face showed me something very similar that I saw when he won the All-Ireland in 2010. He enjoyed the day Frere Fontaine won, that’s for sure.”
Aghada club secretary Darren Lee also paid tribute to the manner in which Kieran conducted himself while battling cancer.
In October of 2017, the Aghada clubman was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Despite extensive chemotherapy and surgery, the cancer would return twice more in subsequent years.
A ‘Friends of Kieran’ committee was established, with over €300,000 raised to help cover medical costs.
“During the troubles he had the last couple of years, he engaged with people the exact same way as he did when he was at his height in 2010 and the years before that. People understood that Kieran was an honest fella that many of us would aspire to operate like in life, not just on the field. That is reflected in the numbers raised and the generosity of people from around the world. And even the generosity and warm-wishes of GAA people and non-GAA people during the past 24 hours have been something else. We are very grateful to everyone,” said the Aghada secretary.
He was an honest, down to earth, family man. He was also a great clubman for us. He gave us great days. He was a tight corner-back and a good man.
Both men said Kieran brought out the very best in the GAA. Indeed, the GAA family rallied to such an extent during Kieran's battle with cancer that each time an Aghada team went out to play a game, their opponents would present a donation to the fund after the final whistle.
“He showed the strength of the GAA family, the GAA community,” insisted Lee.