The Valentia Island native is one of the most decorated footballers in the history of the GAA with four All-Ireland titles, twelve Munster SFC crowns, four national league wins and an All-Star, but the 78-year old said he never kept the medals.
But that is his only regret in the GAA.
O’Connell made the revelations in a new book which has been produced by children at a national school in Leitrim to raise funds for their sports facilities.
Children at St Hugh’s National School in Dowra on the Leitrim-Cavan border, where former Leitrim football Padraig Kenny is principal, have produced a publication called ‘The Scrapbook of Regrets’ where they sought a response from 150 GAA personalities around the country.
“While I was often on the losing team, I was also on many winning teams but I never kept medals,” said O’Connell. “I regret not having them now to show to my grandchildren, but I have some newspaper cuttings from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.”
O’Connell said that while he never regretted living on an island while pursuing an inter-county career, it did present challenges and the book discloses how he was once stranded after coming back from an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park when someone took his boat and he had to spend the night with a fisherman in Reenard before his boat was returned the following day and he was able to row home.
“Living on Valentia Island was not a regret, but definitely a challenge when it came to my football career.”