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Sunday 31 August 2014

GAA star took own life after breakdown of marriage

Ralph Riegel

Published 11/01/2013 | 05:00

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Paul O'Connor

A GAA STAR left lonely and anxious by the break-up of his marriage took his own life after leaving a detailed note about his funeral arrangements.

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Former Cork and college hurling star Paul O'Connor (49) was discovered dead in his Bishopstown home after friends and work colleagues had become worried about him.

But for a serious knee injury, Mr O'Connor would have been one of the outstanding hurlers of the 1990s.

The alarm was raised when Mr O'Connor, a respected teacher and father of two, did not show up for work at the Ursuline Secondary School in Cork on September 19 last year.

His friend and teaching colleague, Niamh Murphy, wept as she outlined to a coroner's inquest how it was totally out of character for him not to show up for work. She said she was concerned but did not want to over-react after being unable to contact Mr O'Connor.

She informed school official Sr Jean of her concerns and they agreed that if Mr O'Connor did not report for work on September 20 they would investigate further.

The next day, with no sign of Mr O'Connor, they went to his home at Highfield Lawn, Bishopstown, Co Cork. The hurler's car was in the driveway, the lights were on in the house and his mobile phone and coat were by the kitchen table.

Both were alarmed and contacted Mr O'Connor's friend and GP, Dr Paddy Crowley.

He drove to the scene and rang the gardai.

Mr O'Connor's best friend, All-Ireland winner John Gardiner, also raced to the scene along with the deceased's nephew, Paul.

When Garda John O'Sullivan forced his way into the house, Mr O'Connor was discovered dead on an upstairs landing.

A note was found on a downstairs table. The note, which was in Mr O'Connor's handwriting, contained detailed instructions about his preferred funeral arrangements.

Dr Crowley said that Mr O'Connor had been lonely but was taking steps to get fit and occupy his time.

"He never indicated to me that he would take his own life. He had personal difficulties (the year before) ... himself and his wife had separated and this had created a lot of anxiety and tension for him. It (had) seemed to weigh heavily on his mind," the GP said.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane was told that gardai did not consider the death suspicious.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster conducted a post mortem and found Mr O'Connor died from asphyxia.

Dr Cullinane ruled that Mr O'Connor had taken his own life and described him as "an exemplary sportsman and teacher."

Mr O'Connor hurled for Cork between 1987 and 1990 but was deprived of an All-Ireland medal after suffering a serious knee injury just months before Cork's famous "double" of the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire Cups.

Irish Independent

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