Seamus Darby, scorer of the most famous goal in GAA history, has paid tribute to the man who supplied him with the decisive pass in the 1982 All-Ireland SFC final.
Liam O’Connor, who died on Monday, fired in the angled delivery that allowed Darby to flash home a sensational goal for Offaly and deny Kerry an unprecedented fifth successive All-Ireland title.
O’Connor starred at full-back between 1979 and 1986 and, in that time, won an All-Ireland senior title and three Leinster championships. At club level, O’Connor captured six Offaly titles and two Leinster Club crowns with Walsh Island.
O’Connor passed away in Waterford at the age of 58 and Darby remembers a ‘quiet and unassuming’ character. With Kerry clinging on in the 1982 decider, it was O’Connor who took the bull by the horns as he abandoned his full-back position for a decisive foray upfield. And Darby reflected: “Liam came thundering up field and dropped it in on top of me. It worked for me as well and that’s the way it went. Liam just got on with his business – he wasn’t a very flamboyant bloke.
“He was one of the guys who wouldn’t be in the limelight. He played in two All-Ireland finals against the Bomber Liston and did well on him. Liam was a very easy guy to get on with, unassuming, did his own thing. He wouldn’t be looking for the limelight, a fella you’d love to meet.”
Eugene McGee, manager of Offaly’s 1982 All-Ireland winning team, remembers O’Connor as “unsung hero” in that Offaly set-up. But, as McGee plotted the eventual downfall of a magnificent Kerry side, he picked Connor to put the shackles on dangerman Liston.
McGee said: “He wasn’t one of the flashier players or big name stars, even though he was one of the four Connors (along with brother Tomás and cousins Matt and Richie).
“He wasn’t a flamboyant player in those days. He had a specific job to do and that was his role. He was encouraged and pushed forward to try and compete with Eoin Liston.
“When he arrived, we were in the process of trying to beat Dublin in Leinster. We did in 1980 (Leinster final) and then we were confronted with Kerry.”
The Kingdom beat Offaly by five points in the 1980 All-Ireland SFC semi-final – and by seven points in the final a year later. But 1982 would be Offaly’s year and O’Connor’s brother-in-law McGee recalls: “Liston was an amazing man to compete against — he had everything going for him. But Liam had the physique to match – 6ft 3” tall, very athletic and tough as nails. Liam managed to cope with Liston reasonably well.
“And as I said to his eldest son Mark shortly before he died, as long as DVDs are in existence, your Dad will never be forgotten.”
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