Wednesday 24 April 2019

Donncha calls time on inter county career

Ballydesmond's finest became one of the most respected in the game

John Tarrant

The inter-county career of Ballydesmond's most favourite son, Donncha O'Connor, has run its course after one of the most respected figures in Gaelic football announced his retirement following Cork's defeat by Tyrone last weekend.

A host of colleagues, opponents and officials paid tribute to Donncha and thanked him for great memories. His departure severs a link with Cork's 2010 All-Ireland winning team - an integral part of that triumph, O'Connor hit 0-5 in that final success over Down and 1-5 in the semi-final victory over Dublin. Injuries curbed his involvement last summer yet he decided to commit for another campaign this year. 

The Ballydesmond club man was a latecomer to inter-county football. A substitute on the Cork team that won the All-Ireland junior football title in 2005, he was subsequently brought onto the senior squad by manager Billy Morgan.

He made his inter-county debut for Cork in 2006 against Dublin and it didn't take long for O'Connor to establish himself as one of the top forwards in the country. Aside from the 2010 All-Ireland success, he won four Munster senior football medals and claimed four National League medals, and played in three All Ireland finals.

This week, Ballydesmond GAA spoke of their admiration for a great stalwart that put aside the divided loyalties of their football mad village.

"All involved wish our clubman Donncha O'Connor every health, happiness and enjoyment in the future on his retirement from the Cork Senior footballers. From unbelievable service and total dedication to Cork, he always gave 100%, Donncha represented Ballydesmond and Duhallow with pride", said the club. 

"2010 was our club's proudest day when Cork won the All Ireland and Donncha lifted Sam, the homecoming will never be forgotten. 

"Happy retirement and thanks for the wonderful memories," echoed the club. "A class act and a gentleman."

That October in 2010, delirious fans joined by neighbours from across the county bounds thronged Ballydesmond for a special homecoming, acknowledging Donncha and a Cork side that deservedly took their place in the pantheon of truly great teams after claiming the overall title after a two decade absence.

At a Duhallow Board meeting this week, Chairman Joe Kearns described O'Connor as one of the longest-serving and most decorated players in Cork football history.

"He remains the most committed man on the Duhallow panel. He showed real maturity and dedication to the cause, a role model with huge commitment, dedication and talent. No doubt, he will remain playing with his club Ballydesmond and division Duhallow ," he said.

Cork GAA chairperson Tracey Kennedy also paid tribute to the Ballydesmond clubman following his inter-county departure.