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'Winning a match wasn't a triumph, losing a match wasn't a disaster': Mick O'Connell remembers his career at 80 years of age

The Kerry legend refuses to endorse the iconic status attached to him.

Mick O'Connell stands alongside another Kerry great, Jack O'Shea.
Mick O'Connell stands alongside another Kerry great, Jack O'Shea.
Image: ©INPHO

KERRY FOOTBALLING LEGEND Mick O’Connell celebrated his 80th birthday today and even after all these years, he continues to reflect on his historic career with modesty.

O’Connell created a legacy throughout the duration of his years in the Kerry jersey and his name is synonymous with all the greats of the game.

But speaking to Ger Gilroy and Joe Molloy on this evening’s ‘Off The Ball,’ he declined to look back at his career in those terms.

In fact, he rejected the notion that his playing days could even be defined as a career and considers it a “pastime” which his lifestyle could accommodate.

“To me, I grew up when football was a pastime and you played at weekends with a bit of practice during the week, and everything else was incidental. There were more important things to be doing and that’s the background that I came from.

Triumph and disaster came the same to me. (If) you won a match, it wasn’t a triumph, losing a match wasn’t a disaster. That was my thinking of the game and I make no apologies about it.”

“There were other things more important to me than football. I played football first of all, because I liked it. If I was born somewhere else, it probably would have been soccer or something else but Gaelic was the game in this locality, I happened to play it by accident.

“There was no such thing as the number one aim in my life to play football. It was purely incidental.

Later in the conversation, Gilroy goes on to reference O’Connell’s famous routine of rowing over and back from his home place in Valentia Island, and suggested that it was an ideal form of exercise to compliment his football training.

O’Connell however, didn’t agree.

“Football and rowing had no association.

“There were far more greater difficulties than rowing over and back. Other people had to bring cattle, horses and things across – I was doing it for pleasure and a pastime.”

While recalling his experiences as a footballer, O’Connell emphasised the importance of perfecting the skills from a young age and said that his personal training regime on the island, simply consisted of “running, jumping and a bit of climbing.”

Molloy inquired about O’Connell’s great passion in life. But again, he had a simple response.

“Passion in life? None whatsoever. Playing football afforded me the chance to do exercise and play games locally and sometimes in Dublin. It was a nice way of associating with other people.”

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