Instead, the 37-year-old’s last appearance in Rebel red was a timid championship exit to Tyrone. That O’Connor featured at all is a testament to his passion for Cork football and exactly why he should be fast-tracked into a management role at some level.
This campaign, even during the league, he couldn’t get himself right to contribute. He was willing, but his body simply wasn’t. That’s how the end comes for many inter-county stalwarts.
His peak was unquestionably 2010 when he recovered from kicking a wild free in a Munster semi-final loss to Kerry which allowed them to force extra time, to go on and shine in Croker when it really mattered. He nailed the penalty in the comeback win over Dublin and fired 0-3 from play, as well as his customary frees, in the All-Ireland final against Down.
He buried some pressure penalties for Cork outside of the Dublin one, including against Kerry in 2009 and 2011 and in the ’09 Munster final against Limerick. Kerry always viewed him as a primary threat in the Rebel front six, often deploying their best man-marker Marc Ó Sé to track him.
Like many of the heroes from 2010, O’Connor has no airs or graces, no arrogance off the field even if he was totally driven on it. He might knock another couple of seasons out of club football — John Miskella came off for Ballincollig in the first round of this year’s SFC at the age of 40 — but he must be utilised by Cork regardless.
And perhaps, like Donncha, there are footballers who were on the fringes of Cork’s underage squads who have the bottle and skillset to make a late burst at senior.