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Colm Cooper is held back by Kieran O'Connor.
Colm Cooper is held back by Kieran O'Connor.
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

The GAA family have rallied to help Kieran O’Connor in his toughest battle yet

WE like our clichés in the GAA.

Take your points and the goals will come, the fact that the players being amateur meaning they care more and the idea that a motion passed at club level can go all the way to changing the association nationally by being passed at Congress.

There are varying levels of truth involved, of course, and one which may make the average person cynical is the old standard from the player profiles in the programme, as the question, “What’s the best thing about the GAA?” is answered with, “The friends you make.”

However, there can be no denying that, when the need is greatest, the Gaelic family pulls together, with an incredible level of dedication. 

That is something which has been clearly seen over the past few days, in the case of Kieran O’Connor.

Battling cancer for the third time in 18 months, the Aghada man needs to raise €250,000 but that target has already been exceeded.

In an article he wrote in the Irish Examiner on Saturday, Cork’s 2010 All-Ireland-winning captain Graham Canty gave an insight into the high regard in which O’Connor was held in a group where every inch was battled for.

“One of the 100 percenters in our group was Kieran O’Connor from Aghada. 

"A man who lived those two values throughout his life, not just when he came into the Cork dressing room. He worked hard, was honest to a fault and would do anything for the group over the course of eight years.

“Kieran is a man you would pick to go to war with you. When I say war, I’m not using it in a metaphorical sense. 

"I mean if there was an actual war, in the trenches akin to World War 1, life and death stuff, I would pick him to stand beside me. Because you knew what you would get from him; he would fight to the death. He would never leave your side.

“He would have your back. If, in your peripheral vision you saw Kieran had engaged an enemy target, he would take him down or die trying. I am certain of that.

“Kieran would do anything for the group. The two values enabled Kieran to deliver time and again for Cork. 

"He was one of our best man-markers and survived in one-on-one combat with some of the best forwards the game has seen. And that was back when we didn’t have a blanket defence to protect him.”

Kieran O'Connor. Picture: Larry Cummins
Kieran O'Connor. Picture: Larry Cummins

Anyone who knows Graham Canty will be aware that he is the kind of solid, upstanding individual who will give an honest appraisal of what he sees, rather than issuing mealy-mouthed compliments. 

To have earned Canty’s respect is an achievement in itself. When he writes such words about Kieran O’Connor, you know that they are backed up to the hilt.

That was a group of players that achieved more than most Cork football teams, yet at the time there was still more criticism than praise attached, for what they weren’t rather than what they were. 

Almost any other county would take one All-Ireland, three provincial titles, three Division 1 league titles and one Division 2 in the space of five years, but the lament – as with the 1973 team and even Billy Morgan’s side – was that they should have won more.

It’s only now, as we see the other side of the coin, that the achievements of Conor Counihan’s team are properly recognised. O’Connor, in both his on-field exploits as a firefighter and his example shown off the pitch, played as big a part as anybody, giving 100 percent, as Canty wrote.

Now, those efforts are being repaid to the same extent by GAA people inside and outside of Cork. Obviously, football is only a sport when it boils down to it, but it allowed O’Connor’s character to shine through.

We’re loath to say that his character has helped him to beat cancer twice – it would be unfair on those whose illnesses can’t be beaten, no matter the level of effort – but he has every fighting chance, with the people of Cork and beyond helping his cause.

To assist, visit www.gofundme.com/friends-of-kieran/donate