Quiet man Jerry calls time on career

HE weighed up the options when asked for a word.

“You might as well,” he was told, “otherwise I’ll have to make it up.”

So Jerry O’Connor responded: “You might be better off.”

Even a quiet man can dish out the one-liners.

Hurler of the Year (2005), two All-Irelands, club All-Ireland title, three All Stars. It’s a formidable CV.

The Newtownshandrum man has no regrets about saying goodbye to inter-county hurling.

“I had my mind made up at the start of this year, really, and as we were coming out of the Gaelic Grounds after the Galway game in the championship, I said it to a couple of the lads – ‘that’s me gone’.

“I’d my mind made up a long time.

“I’ll miss it, of course. I’ve been at it so long, it was such a part of my life, but time moves on and you have to accept that. For a long time it was a case of ‘fill up the car’ with (brother) Ben and head off, so that’ll leave a void. But after the first match they play I’ll be grand.”

O’Connor retired with the body intact, at least. Intact according to his reckoning, anyway: “I’ve been lucky enough the last couple of years – this season in particular the hamstrings didn’t come at me and I had a lot of work done.

“I’ve taken a few knocks and bangs over the years, and my hips and shoulders are at me from time to time, but apart from that I’m not too bad.

“With the club, we’ll get to the end of the year and see how it goes then.”

The career highlights came from Cork’s run of success in the mid-2000s — and one surprising inclusion.

“I suppose the All-Ireland semi-final against Clare in 2005 was one of the great days. We were well down on the day and we weren’t going that well on the day, but we kept plugging away and eventually we came back, we got on a bit of a roll and we got back into it and won it.

“That showed something about the team. We weren’t going well but we stuck at it and got the win eventually.

“Another good day was the league match against Kilkenny this year. Fellas might be surprised to hear that but I was on the team a couple of years ago that lost by 30 points or whatever down in Nowlan Park, so to go and draw on their own patch was a good turnaround.”

O’Connor left a message for the newcomers to the Cork senior squad: “I’m not going to say everything is rosy, Jimmy (Barry-Murphy) and the lads coming in know there’s a hard job ahead but they’re willing to put in the work and if the young lads match that and put in the hard yards in training then I don’t doubt that Cork will be able to compete.

“A big thing next year will be the fact that Cian O’Neill has stepped down as Tipperary physical trainer.

“I think that’ll level the playing field in Munster hurling next year and I don’t think Cork will be too far off it.

“You can win all you want at underage but you must step it up when you come to senior.

“But Jimmy (Barry-Murphy) and all the lads know that. If Cork could win a league or a Munster title next year it’d be great for the confidence.”

O’Connor’s retirement robs Cork a half of one of the great midfield partnerships, though his playing colleague is continuing in red and white.

“Yeah, I think Tom Kenny often said he had a bad back from carrying me,” dead panned O’Connor.

“In fairness to him, he was a great man to play alongside. I got a couple of awards over the years that should have gone to him by right, he was top class. Still is.”

He had top class alongside him, too.


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