Shock as Fitzgibbon Cup legend dies

Tributes were paid last night to one of the greatest ever Fitzgibbon Cup hurlers, who died unexpectedly yesterday.

Paul O’Connor, 49, from Cork, was found dead in a house in city’s Highfield area. Gardaí described the death as a personal tragedy.

His lifelong friend and Na Piarsaigh clubmate, Tony O’Sullivan, said people were shattered.

“There is a dark cloud hanging over the club. You are fortunate to meet certain people in life and Paul was one of those people — he was an absolute gent.”

A skilled midfielder with great ball distribution skills, O’Connor won a Dr Harty Cup medal with the North Monastery in 1980, and a county minor double with Na Piarsaigh in 1981.

He enjoyed incredible hurling success at UCC, playing in the five Fitzgibbon Cup finals the college won between 1982 and 1986. He captained the ’86 team, scoring a famous point from 85 yards.

He played senior hurling for Cork in 1987, ’88 and ’89, but did not win Munster or All-Ireland titles, though he won medals with Na Piarsaigh in ’90 and ’95.

He went on to coach UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup team which won the treble from 1996 to ’98, and ’09.

Earlier this year, he coached the UCC team that won the Centenary Fitzgibbon title at the Mardyke, beating CIT after an extra time thriller.

Later that night, he was named in the Fitzgibbon Team of the Century.

UCC’s director of sport, Christine O’Donovan, said: “Paul was a very valued member of UCC hurling club and his sudden passing is a tremendous loss to all.”

Funeral arrangements are being finalised.

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