Cork star Cathal Naughton yesterday described Ben O’Connor as the greatest hurler he has seen.
O’Connor retired from intercounty hurling earlier this month after a glittering career with the Rebels and Naughton admitted the squad are ‘gutted’ by the departure of his Newtownshandrum team mate.
Naughton said: “Ben has been unbelievable for Cork and for Newtown. He is definitely the best hurler I’ll ever see. The bigger game, the harder the battle, the tougher the challenge, the more the game was in the melting pot, the more and more Ben O’Connor would be to the fore.”
Naughton said O’Connor’s decision to depart the top flight scene caught the panel unawares. “We had no indication, we were told at training. Everybody was gutted and shocked.
“He doesn’t owe Cork hurling anything — he is his own man.
“It’s going to be a pity not to see him flying down the wing in Thurles and Croke Park.”
But O’Connor will remain hurling with his club, much to Naughton’s delight. “Thankfully, compared to the Cork lads, I still have a chance to play with him and Jerry (at club level). He was unbelievable to me, on and off the field. I couldn’t ask for better. It was a joy growing up in Newtown and being able to watch him train. I loved travelling up and down to training with him — on a day like today now (blazing sun) we might sneak off for a ‘99’ on the way home!”
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