BY DENIS HURLEY
FORMER Cork football manager Conor Counihan has paid tribute to the quiet strength of Alan O’Connor, who has retired from inter-county action.
New Cork coach Ronan McCarthy revealed on Monday night that St Colum’s clubman O’Connor had decided to depart the Rebels scene, having previously retired in 2013 only to return in 2015.
One of McCarthy’s predecessors, Counihan, who gave O’Connor his championship debut in 2008 and who was in charge when Cork won the 2010 All-Ireland, believes that O’Connor’s leadership will be missed.
‘He owes Cork nothing,’ Counihan said.
‘He was a joy to deal with and while he was a man of few words, when he spoke, people listened to him. If something needed to be said, he’d have no problem in saying it.
‘He was such an honest player, he always left it all out on the pitch. He had ferocious strength and he was top-class, a really solid guy.’
A dual Cork minor player in 2003, O’Connor won three Munster SFC medals as well as three Division 1 league titles and one Division 2 with Cork, while in 2004 he was part of the Carbery panel which won the county senior football title.
Given that he remained based in Kealkill for almost the entirety of his career, the commitment was plain to see.
‘He’d have done anything for you,’ Counihan said.
‘If you look at it, how many guys nowadays working for themselves with a gang of kids would be as a committed as that? On top of that, he had the travel to contend with as well.
‘The last few years, it seemed to be one injury after another, which must have been very frustrating.
‘He was never a guy who courted the media or anything like that, he was just wanted to play football.
‘Coming from a small club, it just went to show that if you have it, you can go far and he had it in abundance. If you have that drive, that enthusiasm, you can overcome anything.’