Conor Counihan: ‘Travesty’ if Alan O’Connor didn’t win All-Ireland

It would have been a “travesty” had Alan O’Connor finished his Cork football career without an All-Ireland medal, according to former manager Conor Counihan.

Conor Counihan: ‘Travesty’ if Alan O’Connor didn’t win All-Ireland

New coach Ronan McCarthy announced on Monday evening that the 32-year old midfielder would not be part of the 2018 panel having informed management of his decision to retire from inter-county football.

Counihan, who handed O’Connor his championship debut in the summer of 2008, said the St Colum’s man had shown “remarkable commitment” during his two spells with Cork — he retired at the end of the 2013 season, only to return to the fold ahead of the 2015 championship.

O’Connor, midfield on the All-Ireland winning team of 2010, ruptured his cruciate ligament during the qualifier defeat to Kildare in July of 2015, not appearing again for the county team until the following July.

“Cork owe Alan a debt of gratitude for the service he gave,” Counihan remarked.

“He bucked the trend in terms of his commitment; the huge distance he had to travel to and from training and the fact that he was married with a young family.

“Can you imagine sitting into a car in Kealkill below in West Cork a couple of evenings a week, driving up to the city, returning at the dead of night after a hard session and then facing into work early the next morning?

“It would have been a travesty had he not got his All-Ireland for the commitment he gave.”

Counihan recalled the many afternoons when O’Connor shone in the Munster championship at Fitzgerald Stadium, making reference also to the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final win over Tyrone — a game where O’Connor was dismissed on the half-hour mark for a second yellow card.

“His sending off drove the other fellas because they held Alan in such high regard.”

Counihan added: “From day one, Alan struck me as an honest and hardworking individual. He was real workmanlike, a team player.

“He was a quiet person but there were one or two occasions when he felt the need to speak in the dressing-room on match-day and by God, when Alan O’Connor stood up to talk, you listened. When he decided to go, he’d go, and the hair would stand on the back of your neck.

“He was an exceptional player on the field, his physical nature was something else. It was where he liked to do most of his talking.”

This was a sentiment shared by 2017 Cork captain Paul Kerrigan. “Alan was always a guy whose actions spoke louder than his words. A leader by example on and off the field. He was someone we all looked up to and looked to when times got tough. He was a great team-mate and always gave 100% every time he put on his boots.”

Others who won’t be part of the Cork set-up next year are Tadhg Mac Cárthaighs player Colm O’Driscoll, Clonakilty’s Tom Clancy, O’Donovan Rossa’s Donal Óg Hodnett, Niall Coakley, who plies his trade with St Jude’s in Dublin, and Kevin Conlon of Douglas.

Coakley, who made his debut this year, started the Munster final defeat to Kerry, with O’Driscoll also seeing game-time that afternoon in Killarney.

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