THE passing of former Millstreet and Cork GAA star Con Hartnett has evoked a huge sense of regret.
One of the finest defenders of his generation, the All-Ireland medallist became a respected player during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Whether for club or county, the wing-back was a dominant figure on a regular basis, linking play surperbly with his boundless energy and deft kicking.
It gained him the highest honour in the land when helping Cork take custody of the All-Ireland title in 1973 with an exciting victory over Galway.
Hartnett bred a sense of pride into his native parish, showing great promise from an early age, he made his adult debut for Millstreet in 1968 just shy of 17 years, Millstreet claimed a victory over St Finbarr's in the Tadgh Crowley Cup. For good measure, Hartnett’s dual involvement saw Millstreet add a rare Novice Hurling Championship.
1969 saw Hartnett join club colleague John Coleman to establish a record, part and parcel of a Millstreet team to win their fifth consecutive Duhallow Minor Football Championship medal. The same season, the pair figured on a Cork side that bettered Derry to claim back-to-back All-Ireland minor titles.
There was mixed emotions in 1970. Hartnett was on a Cork team that beat Fermanagh in the All-Ireland U21 football decider though hopes of adding on a junior medal were denied by Kildare.
The Rebels retained their 1971 U21 football title at the expense of Fermanagh again, with Hartnett collecting his fourth medal in consecutive seasons.
Naturally, elevation to senior ranks followed, Hartnett introduced as a substitute when Cork overturned a four-point interval deficit to blitz the Kingdom on a 0-22 to 0-11 in the 1971 Munster final.
A lack of experience saw Cork falter to Offaly in an All-Ireland semi-final yet the Rebel county were gaining momentum, confirmed on regaining the 1973 Munster title when five goals in the opening half laid the groundwork for victory over Kerry at the last major game played at the Cork Athletic Grounds.
Goals did the trick again to power past Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi to advance to the final. A proud day for Hartnett and Millstreet, joined by club colleagues Coleman, Humphrey Kelleher and Denis Long, the quartet contributed significantly to the Rebel cause for Cork to attack in relentless waves to claim the Sam Maguire Cup after a 28-year lapse.
Hartnett added a third Munster senior medal in 1974 only for Cork to relinquish their title to a fast and emerging blue Dublin tide.
During his playing career, Connie Hartnett enjoyed every minute on the field and earned enormous respect from team mates and opponents as he revealed all the skill, commitment and pride in the jersey he represented.
An inspiring figure for Cork and Millstreet teams, Connie followed county and club teams with interest past his retirement. His death sees a light quenched, Millstreet and Cork regretting the passing of one its ardent champions with sympathy extended to his family.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.