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‘I’ve learnt everything from him’ – Dundalk chairman recalls his late father

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The late Michael O'Connor, father of Dundalk FC chairman, Seán O'Connor.

The late Michael O'Connor, father of Dundalk FC chairman, Seán O'Connor.

The late Michael O'Connor, father of Dundalk FC chairman, Seán O'Connor.

argus

It was perhaps fitting, albeit purely coincidental, that last Friday was the occasion that new Dundalk FC chairman Seán O'Connor chose to sit down to speak publicly for the first time since taking up the role in November.

January 14 might be an inconsequential date for many but for the STATSports co-founder it's one that will always resonate.

It was on that date two years ago that his father Michael passed away, aged just 61.

For those unfamiliar with Mickey, as he was best known, he was 'Mr Bellurgan'.

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Over several decades he fulfilled virtually every role at his beloved Bellurgan Utd, taking them from a modest peninsula club to one of the most respected in the country - with a setup on and off the field that remains the envy of many, both near and far.

Mickey also had more than a passing interest in Dundalk over the years, attending countless games as a fan and even serving as a director at Oriel Park at one point.

You can't help but think he'd be proud to see Seán in the role he has found himself in in recent weeks.

Speaking to The Argus on the second anniversary of his father's passing, Seán admitted that he would be taking inspiration from the man he clearly idolised.

"I was at a Bellurgan committee meeting the other night and even just looking around at the new floodlights that have gone in and everything that the club has there, it owes a lot to him. Not just him but people like him through the years like Tom Flynn and dad would have gone and got that pitch and things like that," said Seán.

"Without knowing it, I’ve no doubt that a lot of what I’m doing is all coming from him in terms of I’ve learnt everything from him when it comes to football and his passion for it and his football brain from an organisational and structural point of view."

While improving things on and off the field at Dundalk is a much bigger task than at a local junior club, Seán believes many of the ideals that his father had remain the same.

"There was never an ulterior motive for him at Bellurgan," he said.

"It was always about doing the best that he could for the community and the kids of the community. It’s the same thing here.

"What’s the best we can do for this club and for the people of the town and how can we create pathways for really good footballers – boys and girls – to come through this club and progress but how can we also create a club that is for everyone in Dundalk?

"We need to make it that it’s more accessible. It has to be somewhere you’re comfortable bringing your family – your wife, your kids, sons, daughters. We have to grow and evolve as a club.

"Some of that I’ll constantly reflect back on what he did. I’ll always kind of have that ‘what would dad do with this or how would he do that or what would he think of that’. You’d miss bouncing things off him in that respect but, yeah, he’s a huge influence in what we’ll do hopefully."

After a few years where fans questioned the ideals and values of owners, having Mickey O'Connor's son at the helm must be a huge comfort.

No one is under any illusions that there are plenty of challenges ahead at Oriel Park but while the size and scale of the task might be bigger than the one Mickey undertook at Bellurgan, it's fair to say that if Seán turns out to be half the chairman his father was then he'll be a huge success.


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