The Rathmore star this week brought the curtain down on a glittering 13 year senior inter-county career but O’Connor admitted the news did not come as a surprise to him or to management.
O’Connor said: “It was on the cards. I met him around Christmas and I knew he was considering his future. But Tom owes nothing to Kerry football because he has been a great servant over 13 years. He is 33 but he has five All-Ireland medals and played in a few more finals so he has had a great career. I’m sure he will enjoy his retirement.”
He continued: “I go back a good bit with Tom, because I won an All-Ireland U21 title with him in 1998 when I was trainer of that team. He was a great corner back and a great man marker over many years. He came up against the best of them, all the best corner forwards around the country, like Michael Meehan, Paddy Bradley and the entire top inside attackers. He has marked all the best left footed corner forwards in the country and over his career very few have beaten him. He has been a great player over the years.”
O’Connor, in his book ‘Keys to Kingdom’ , wrote of his relationship with O’Sullivan and yesterday recounted: “He was a great character to put it mildly – a bit of a rogue. There was always a bit of gamesmanship going on by Tom at the start of every season of when he was coming back. But the one thing about him was that once he came back, and put his mind to it, there was no better man to train. I can never remember Tom being injured because he was a natural athlete. He was a great character in the dressing room with a dry sense of humour. He would test your patience but I had great time for him because when it came to game time and Tom put his game face on, there was no one better.
“He will be missed because characters like Tom do not come around every day and now it’s the new generation and it’s a great opportunity for the likes of Shane Enright, Brian McGuire and Peter Crowley to step up because they are the next generation of Kerry footballers.”
Meanwhile a leading Kerry GAA club has revealed it is encountering a “very serious” financial crisis which is rapidly reaching a stage where any cheques written will not be honoured.
Former All-Ireland club champions Castleisland Desmonds have issued a public appeal for financial support and the club is to resort to turning to emigrants for help.
In a letter circulated to members this week, the cash-strapped Kerry club’s financial committee confirmed the extent of the worrying financial plight which is due to a lack of sponsorship and a dramatic slump in fundraising income.
“Currently we have facilities with the bank to a maximum limit of €80,000. We can spend another €2,500 before that limit is reached and we can’t write cheques after that,” a spokesman said. “The club’s financial position is very serious,” he added.
Desmonds’ officials divulged that no sponsorship has been secured for 2012 and income from the club’s vital lottery fundraiser has decreased significantly compared to two or three years ago. Plans for another fundraising initiative also had to be deferred due to the recession.
The letter, signed by senior club officials, Martin Murphy, Denny Lyons, Dan Kearney, Colm Kirwan and Michael John Kearney, pointed out that the club is more dependent than ever on a basic membership scheme which seeks donations of €100 per person.
But while over 400 people backed that initiative three years ago, support dropped to just 250 last year which caused added financial implications.
The history-steeped club has now set an immediate target of securing support from at least 300 members but the committee acknowledges that it faces a difficult task. “We are going to need the active support of all club members. We have contacted a large number of people outside of town and we are actively seeking the names and addresses of those who now live abroad,” a spokesman said.
Currently playing in Division 2 of the Kerry county league, Castleisland Desmonds have enjoyed several top-level successes over the years, including victory in the All-Ireland club championship final in 1985 and a final appearance in the same competition the following year.