Sunday 28 May 2017

Where are they now?

Pat O'Connor

(Former Offaly hurler)

The 1990s were a very special time for hurling. Every year in that decade the championship was a wide open affair and several counties claimed the Liam McCarthy Cup. Offaly took the honours in 1994 and 1998 and full-forward Pat O'Connor played a vital role in the first win. Limerick were the opposition and the game provided one of the most explosive All-Ireland final finishes in hurling history.

Limerick went five points ahead with four minutes left, then Johnny Dooley stepped up to take a close-in free. He drove the ball to the back of the net and turned the game on its head. Limerick failed to win possession from the subsequent puck-out, O'Connor took advantage and scored a goal to give his side the lead. Offaly added another four points to their tally and when the final whistle went they had won by six points. Although O'Connor is proud of what his side achieved, he is very modest about his goal, claiming that Offaly had the game in the bag when he got the vital score.

The game that O'Connor has the fondest memories of is the 1995 Leinster final against Kilkenny. His side beat their rivals by 11 points in Croke Park that day and thought they were well on their way to winning two All-Irelands in a row.

"That Leinster final was the biggest performance ever by an Offaly team; it was a huge game, and I'd even go as far as to say it was the game of games. That Kilkenny team were as good as the present side. We put everything into it and it was the toughest game I ever played," O'Connor says.

"Looking back at it I'd say that Offaly blew the 1995 All-Ireland. We were ready to win that year whereas in 1994 we weren't really. If we'd lost in 1994, we'd have come back from it but the loss in 1995 took a lot out of us."

In 1996, after 15 years as an inter-county hurler, O'Connor retired. He kept playing with his club Coolderry and in 2004, at 41, he scored the winning goal in the county final against Birr. After that he dropped down to junior B level and continued playing for several more years.

He's a farmer by trade and although he isn't involved with his club right now, he is a big supporter and will be in Nowlan Park today for the Leinster final against Oulart-The Ballagh.

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