James O’Connor is understood to have stepped down as Ballyhale Shamrocks manager in the wake of today’s All-Ireland Club SHC final defeat.
The Lismore man led Shamrocks to two Kilkenny SHC titles as well as December’s Leinster crown against Clough-Ballacolla.
An emotional O’Connor paid tribute to his Ballyhale Shamrocks players and club after their dramatic loss to Ballygunner.
While recognising Shamrocks pulled off similar death-defying feats on their way to the final, the Lismore man was heartbroken with a second narrow All-Ireland club final loss in the space of two years after his Fr O’Neills side were denied by Tullaroan in the 2020 intermediate final.
“I told them during the week that over the last two years I can definitely say that I have felt like a Shamrocks man,” O’Connor said with tears in his eyes. “They mean a lot to me, to be honest with you…
“The last two years have been very special for me. I've made some great friends up there and Kilkenny people, in general, have been great during the two years I've been there. So it has been an unbelievable experience for me. It's something I won't forget for a long, long time. Hopefully, I will be a better manager/coach because of it.”
O’Connor felt his team had been the better side for the most part before Harry Ruddle’s winning goal. “Look, we've been at the right side of these for the last two years but still when you're in the 63rd minute and it's the last play out there, you just think that it's going to go your way again and when that ball cut inside and beat Dean (Mason), I was just heartbroken.”
As a Waterford man as well as a friend of his opposite number Darragh O’Sullivan, he hopes the victory can propel the county. “I was inside with the Ballygunner fellas there and look I've been on the wrong side of results with them for a long time. They're the benchmark of Waterford hurling. At the end of the day, I'm a Waterford man. I'm delighted for Darragh, he's a good friend of mine going back over 20 years now. I'm sure they'll be celebrating in Waterford tonight.
“When you get your club team up there winning club All-Irelands, it really drives on the county. I think this will be a big plus for Waterford."