Former Cork footballer Kieran O’Connor has died at the age of 41.
The Aghada native, a member of the Rebels’ panel which won the All-Ireland senior football title in 2010, had been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, on three separate occasions since his retirement from football, overcoming it twice.
A starter for the Cork U21 team in 1999 and 2000 despite not playing for the county at minor level, O’Connor made his senior championship debut against Fermanagh in 2004 and established himself as a starter on Billy Morgan’s team in 2006, going on to play in the 2007 All-Ireland final defeat to Kerry.
He remained a central figure in the squad under Morgan’s successor, his Aghada clubmate Conor Counihan. He started the 2009 All-Ireland final, in which the Rebels again lost to Kerry, and won the elusive Celtic Cross a year later when Cork claimed Sam Maguire for the first time in 20 years. He won three Munster medals, four national league medals (three Divison 1 and one Division 2) and also represented Munster in the inter-provincial championship.
For his club Aghada, he was an integral member of the Rostellan side’s senior football team and also played in the 2005 county premier intermediate hurling final defeat to Ballinhassig.
First diagnosed with cancer in October 2017, just before the birth of his son James, he had a successful operation to remove a tumour from his right ankle but when the disease returned he had to have part of his lower leg amputated. Unfortunately, the cancer spread to his back in early 2019.
In the wake of that, a fundraising group, Friends of Kieran, was established to help the family cover medical costs and there was an incredible response, with a target of €250,000 exceeded by approximately €75,000.
He is survived by his wife Sinéad, daughters Isabelle and Ava and son James.