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'He put up an incredibly brave fight. He was a brave player and never backed down'

Cork All-Ireland winner Kieran O’Connor passed away earlier this month.

Kieran Donaghy in action against Kieran O'Connor.
Kieran Donaghy in action against Kieran O'Connor.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

KIERAN DONAGHY HAS spoken of the bravery that Cork All-Ireland winner Kieran O’Connor showed on and off the pitch before passing away earlier this month.

O’Connor, who was a member of the 2010 Cork football squad who captured the Sam Maguire, died at the age of just 41 after a long illness. The Aghada clubman had previously been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 2017.

Donaghy was among those who paid tribute to O’Connor’s memory at the time of his death, having played against the defender in a Kerry jersey.

Speaking to the media today, Donaghy expressed his sympathies once again to O’Connor’s family and remarked on the kind of player he encountered when they met on the pitch.

“It was just from the game that I would have known him but from around the time when he was doing fundraisers, you would have tried to help do as much as you can,” he begins.

“He put up an incredibly brave fight. He was a brave player and a player that never backed down. He was in tough situations at times but he never backed down and that’s why he’s held such great regard in his club Aghada.

I think they retired the number four jersey for their game at the weekend which was probably a great release for that club with the hellish week that they went through, putting their all-time best into the grave. That’s very tough and my thoughts are with the family.

“It’s unbearable to think about really but they’ve got a great support system down there that will help as much as they can. It’s a sad loss for the GAA and for Cork GAA, and it’s incredibly said for Aghada and the close friends and family that he has, and his team-mates that soldiered with him.”

colm-cooper-and-kieran-oconnor O'Connor tussling for possession with Colm Cooper. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

O’Connor first emerged on the Cork senior squad under Billy Morgan before later establishing himself in the team when Conor Counihan was in charge.

Along with being part of Cork’s 2010 triumph, O’Connor also won Munster senior and National league medals during his inter-county career.


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During the height of his time in a Cork jersey, O’Connor was tasked with marking some of the best forwards in Gaelic football, including Colm Cooper and Declan O’Sullivan.

“I don’t even want to think about the scenario of that because it’s incredibly hard to do,” Donaghy continues about the impact of O’Connor’s loss for his friends and family.

“When you soldier for 12 years with a fella and you win an All-Ireland medal, the bond and the camaraderie that’s built up and the friendship, it isn’t something people talk about a lot of the time but you mightn’t have talked to a guy for 20 years and you see them, and you’ve won an All-Ireland with him.

“It might be a wink or a wave but there’s an acknowledgement there that you’ve been in the pits and you were there with that guy.

“You don’t get to have that anymore but they will certainly have the memories of the great man he was and it’s heart-wrenching with the family and the three kids. It’s very tough and my thoughts are with them at the moment.”

EBS ambassador and Tralee Warriors basketball star, Kieran Donaghy, was speaking at the launch of the 2020 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards supported by EBS.

The awards will see EBS and the Federation of Irish Sport hero the work of volunteers from around the country, who go above and beyond every day to ensure that sport takes place in Ireland.

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