Friday 20 September 2019

Multi-talented O'Connor desperate to clear another 2017 hurdle against Cuala

Rory O'Connor
Rory O'Connor
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Rory O'Connor has hardly had time to take a breath in 2017.

There was the small matter of the Leaving Cert along with a run to the Hogan Cup final with St Peter's. When that was done, he joined the Wexford senior hurlers and made the panel for the Leinster final.

By the time the All-Ireland quarter-final rolled around, he was in the starting side. It didn't stop there.

With Wexford out, he went back to domestic action.

His club St Martin's are good enough to make serious assaults in both the senior hurling and football championships in the county.

They would go all the way in the hurling and lose out in the football decider just a week later. As that was going on, O'Connor and a handful of his team-mates were also on U-21 duty in both codes.

By his count, they played a staggering 21 matches in 15 weeks.

"Well, we were 15 weeks on the trot, it was hurling one day and football the next," said the 18 year old.

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"Hurling, football, hurling, football. So when it was a football week - you couldn't put the hurls down for a full week - so you'd do 15 minutes of hurling and the rest of the session would be football.

"There were U-21 matches in between the senior games, so as far as training went it was more recovery than anything."

They are still going. Tomorrow, they'll face All-Ireland club champions Cuala in the Leinster club SHC semi-final.

A healthy part of the team will be made up of players in and around O'Connor's age.

A part of them might feel like they have been building towards big days like these all their lives.

From their earliest days, O'Connor's vintage have been marked out as something special - in school and at minor level.

"The Rackard League is a primary school tournament down in Wexford - the fourth, fifth and sixth classes and we won three minors as well with those lads.

"So that was possibly the start of it, huge credit goes to Kevin Waters, our principal, and Eamon Barrett. They really started the production line, as they say.

"As well as the club obviously, there are great lads running the teams and progressing players through each level."

His pedigree is well known. His father John and uncle George were part of the Wexford All-Ireland winning team in 1996. His brother Jack was a regular under Davy Fitzgerald this year while Harry lined out for the county's U-21s.

However, the new generation would like to make their own little bit of history.

"The two of them played and they were the last ones to win one, maybe when something else is won they'll be forgotten about," he laughs. That '96 triumph isn't often the topic of conversation at home.

"No, jeez he's nearly embarrassed that there are children under 10 talking about it, that's what they are clinging to.

"It's a bit sad that that is what we are holding on to down there at the moment, the next aim is hopefully a Leinster senior title."

A student in DCU, O'Connor tipped along to Parnell Park to watch Cuala beat Kilkenny champions Dicksboro.

"They were impressive, of course they are, they are All-Ireland champions and they seem to be motoring well at the moment.

"I think we are kind of similar the way we play, we both use our legs a lot to run the ball, both economical with the ball."

St Martin's are expected to be 4/1 outsiders tomorrow but as Rathnew showed, upsets happen in the club championship.

"Belief is a powerful thing, so if we have all of the lads in the dressing-room believing we can do something, sure, of course, you can do anything then.

"I think all of the lads are switched on, the celebrations from the county final are all over. We've had a few practice matches and we are on the run-in now.

"Everybody is looking forward to it, it's a big day, how could you not be?"

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