Ben O'Connor

For the Australian cyclist, see Ben O'Connor (cyclist).
Ben O'Connor
Personal information
Irish name Beircheart Ó Conchubhair
Sport Hurling
Position Right wing-forward
Born (1979-01-25) 25 January 1979
Newtownshandrum, County Cork, Ireland
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Occupation Hurley maker
Years Club
1996–present Newtownshandrum
Club titles
Cork titles 4
Munster titles 3
All-Ireland Titles 1
Years County Apps (scores)
1999–2012 Cork 56 (8–230)
Inter-county titles
Munster titles 5
All-Irelands 3
All Stars 2
*Inter County team apps and scores correct as of 22:52, 15 March 2012.

Ben O'Connor (born 25 January 1979) was an Irish hurler who played as a right wing-forward for the Cork senior team.[1] He is regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation.[2]

O'Connor made his first appearance for the team during the 1999 championship and was a regular member of the starting fifteen until his retirement during the 2012 National League.[3] During that time he won three All-Ireland medals, five Munster medals and two All-Star awards. In 2004 O'Connor captained the team to the All-Ireland title.

At club level O'Connor is an All-Ireland medalist with Newtownshandrum. In addition to this he has also won three Munster medals and four county championship medals.

His twin brother Jerry O'Connor and his younger sister Paula O'Connor also won All-Ireland medals with Cork in hurling and camogie respectively. His father Bernie O'Connor also played underage hurling with Cork.[4]

Playing career


O'Connor plays his club hurling with Newtownshandrum and has enjoyed much success.

Beginning at underage levels he has won practically every hurling competition from under-12 upwards. After enjoying little success in the minor grade, O'Connor subsequently enjoyed a very productive period with the club's under-21 hurling team. Between 1998 and 2000 he picked up three consecutive winners' medals in the county under-21 championship.[5]

In 1996 O'Connor was barely seventeen years-old when he lined out in the final of the county intermediate championship, with Cloyne providing the opposition. A 2–7 to 1–10 draw was followed by a tense replay. The final whistle in that game saw Newtown claim a 0–12 to 0–9 victory, giving O'Connor a coveted county intermediate championship winners' medal.[6]

In 2000 O'Connor's side lined out in their first county senior championship final. Erin's Own provided the opposition on this occasion; however, six points by O'Connor helped his club to a merited 0–14 to 0–11 victory. It was his first county senior championship winners' medal and an historic first for the club.[7]

After surrendering their title in 2001 and losing the final to Blackrock in 2002, Newtown continued their dominance of the club championship and reached the final for a third time in four years in 2003. For the second year in-a-row Blackrock provided the opposition. 'The Rockies', however, were now in decline and Newtown recorded a significant 0–17 to 0–9 victory.[8] This victory allowed Netwown to represent Cork in the provincial club championship, with O'Connor's side even reaching the final. Patrickswell of Limerick provided the opposition on that occasion; however, history was made as Newtown claimed a 2–18 to 2–9 victory.[9] The club championship season culminated on St. Patrick's Day, 2004 with an All-Ireland club final appearance. Perennial runners-up Dunloy provided the opposition and had cause for optimism. After a quiet outing in the Munster final O'Connor made amends by scoring ten points of Newtown's tally of 0–17 and single-handedly beat the Antirm men who only recorded 1–6. It was an historic day for the North Cork parish of only eight hundred people and O'Connor collected a coveted All-Ireland club winners' medal.[10]

After surrendering their county title at the semi-final stage in 2004, Newtown were back in the championship decider again in 2005. Cloyne provided the opposition on that occasion, as the breakthrough teams continued to dominate. O'Connor's side, however, recorded an emphatic 0–15 to 0–9 victory over the east Cork side, giving O'Connor a third county championship winners' medal.[11] Once again the club represented Cork and lined out against Ballygunner in the provincial decider. O'Connor proved the hero, chipping in with six points, to help his side to a narrow 0–16 to 1–12 victory over the Waterford side.[12] A second All-Ireland club final appearance beckoned with Portumna standing in the way of a second All-Ireland club medal. Newtwon, however, were outclassed by a hungrier side as O'Connor's team were defeated by 2–8 to 1–6.[13]

After a few disappointing seasons, Newtownshandrum qualified for the county final again in 2009. It was a clash of the past masters and the reigning champions as Sarsfield's attempted to retain their title. While the opening half saw little separating the sides Newtown went on the rampage in the second-half. O'Connor ended the game having scored a total of 1–4. The final score of 3–22 to 1–12 gave O'Connor a fourth county winners' medal and cemented Newtownshandrum's reputation as the Cork club side of the decade.[14]


In 1998 O'Connor first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Cork under-21 team. He was a non-playing substitute when the team trounced Tipperary by 3–18 to 1–10 to take the Munster title. Cork later qualified for the All-Ireland final with Galway providing the opposition for the second year in succession. O'Connor did not make the starting fifteen; however, he came on as a substitute midway through. In a close game Cork just about secured a 2–15 to 2–10 win, giving O'Connor an All-Ireland under-21 winners' medal.

O'Connor's move onto the Cork senior team was a natural progression for such a talented player. He made his senior debut in the 1999 National League and was an automatic starter for Cork's championship fifteen in 1999. That year Cork were back in their first Munster final since 1992 and O'Connor was a key member of the full-forward line. Clare provided the opposition and were very much the favourites going into the game. An exciting contest unfolded and a score line of 1–15 to 0–14 gave Cork the victory and gave O'Connor his first senior Munster title.[15] Cork later defeated Offaly in one of the games of the year to set up an All-Ireland final meeting with arch-rivals Kilkenny. A wet and windy day meant that the classic game that everyone had expected failed to materialise. Both sides shot seventeen wides over the course of the seventy minutes as a Cork side with an average age of twenty-two came back from five points down to win by 0–13 to 0–12. It was Cork's first senior All-Ireland title since 1990 and it was O'Connor's first.[16]

In 2000 Cork were the favourites to retain their All-Ireland title. The team got off to a good start by retaining their Munster title, however, Tipperary put up a good fight. O'Connor collected a second consecutive Munster winners' medal as Cork won by 0–23 to 3–12. Cork's next game was an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Offaly. While Cork were expected to win the game without breaking a sweat Offaly caught Cork on the hop and recorded a 0–19 to 0–15 win.

While the Cork hurling team should have gone from strength to strength as a result of a solid foundation at minor and under-21 levels, in fact the opposite happened. Embarrassing defeats in 2001 and 2002 saw the Cork hurling team reach rock bottom and call a players' strike just before Christmas in 2002. O'Connor played a low-key role in the strike, with Joe Deane, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Donal Óg Cusack and Diarmuid O'Sullivan taking on the roles of main spokesmen. Had the strike failed it could have meant the end of his and his teammates' careers; however, in the end the county board relented and met the demands. Although still amateur sportsmen the Cork senior hurling team were treated as professional athletes.

In 2003 Cork's players were vindicated in taking a stand as the team reached the Munster final for the first time in three years. Waterford provided the opposition on that occasion as one of hurling's modern rivalries began in earnest. An exciting game resulted between the two teams; however, victory went to Cork by 3–16 to 3–12. It was O'Connor's third Munster medal and it gave a signal that Cork were back.[17] A victory in a replay over Wexford set up an All-Ireland final meeting with Kilkenny. In another thrilling game of hurling both teams were level for much of the game, exchanging tit-for-tat scores. A Setanta Ó hAilpín goal steadied the Cork ship; however, a Martin Comerford goal five minutes from the end settled the game as Kilkenny went on to win by 1–14 to 1–11.[18]

In 2004 O'Connor was appointed captain of the Cork team for the second time. The year saw Cork reach the Munster final once again and, for the second consecutive year, Waterford provided the opposition. In what many consider to be the greatest provincial decider of them all, both sides fought tooth-and-nail for the full seventy minutes. Unfortunately for O'Connor, Cork lost the game by just a single point on a score line of Waterford 3–16, Cork 1–21.[19] Although Cork surrendered their provincial crown they were still in with a chance of landing the All-Ireland title. After manoeuvring through the qualifiers Cork reached a second consecutive All-Ireland final and, once again, Kilkenny provided the opposition. This game took on a life of its own for a number of reasons. Chief among these was the fact that Kilkenny were attempting to capture a third All-Ireland in-a-row and go one ahead of Cork in the All-Ireland roll of honour. The game was expected to be another classic; however, a damp day put an end to this. The first-half was a low-scoring affair and provided little excitement for fans. The second-half saw Cork completely take over. For the last twenty-three minutes Cork scored nine unanswered points and went on to win the game by 0–17 to 0–9. It was O'Connor's second All-Ireland winners' medal.[20]

In 2005 Cork were on form again. They won back the provincial crown that year with a 1–12 to 1–16 victory over Tipperary.[21] It was O'Connor's fourth Munster winners' medal as Cork went on the march for glory once again. While it was expected that Cork and Kilkenny would do battle again in a third consecutive All-Ireland final Galway were the surprise winners of the second semi-final. It was the first meeting of Cork and Galway in an All-Ireland final since 1990 and even more daunting was the fact that the men from the west had never beaten Cork in a championship decider. Once again neither side broke away into a considerable lead; however, O'Connor scored a decisive goal for 'the Rebels'. At the final whistle Cork were ahead by 1–21 to 1–16. For the second year in-a-row Cork were the All-Ireland champions and O'Connor collected his third winners' medal.[22] Both Ben and his brother Jerry finished off the year by becoming the first set of twins to be presented with All-Star awards.

2006 saw Cork turn their attentions to a first three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles since 1978. The provincial decider saw Cork take on Tipp for the second consecutive year. Once again O'Connor contributed greatly to Cork's 2–11 to 1–11 victory over their age-old rivals.[23] Subsequent victories over Limerick and Waterford saw Cork qualify for their fourth consecutive All-Ireland final and for the third time Kilkenny were the opponents. Like previous encounters neither side took a considerable lead; however, Kilkenny had a vital goal from Aidan Fogarty. Cork were in arrears coming into the final few minutes; however, O'Connor goaled for Cork. It was too little too late as 'the Cats' denied 'the Rebels' the three-in-a-row on a score line of 1–16 to 1–13.[24]

Following the 2006 All-Ireland final defeat Cork hurling went into decline. An All-Ireland quarter-final defeat in 2007 was followed by a second players' strike at the end of the year. This was in sympathy with the Cork senior football team. A second strike followed at the end of 2008 over the re-appointment of Gerald McCarthy as manager of the senior hurling team. All of these factors resulted in Cork's hurling team going into further decline.

In 2010 O'Connor's side looked to be moving in the right direction. Cork qualified for the final of the National League; however, victory went to Galway. The team later reached the Munster final, only to lose out to Waterford after a replay.

2011 also saw Cork enjoy little success in the championship as the team exited following a defeat by Galway in the qualifiers. Following this defeat there was speculation that O'Connor may retire from the inter-county scene. While his twin brother Jerry decided to hang up his hurley, O'Connor decided to return to training for another season. He lined out in both of Cork's opening National League games in 2012; however, in a shock announcement he decided to call time on his career in March 2012.


O'Connor has also played with Munster in the inter-provincial championship. He first lined out for his province in 2002; however, defeat was his lot. A similar fate befell the province again in 2003. In 2005 O'Connor secured his first, and only, Railway Cup winners' medal. He was a member of the team again in 2008; however, Munster lost out on that occasion again.

Personal life

O'Connor was born in the village of Newtownshandrum, County Cork to Bernie and Kathleen O'Connor (née O'Mahony). He was educated at the local national school before later attending Mannix College in Charleville. While going to school here he had his first national hurling success, when he won an All-Ireland vocational schools medal in 1997.

O'Connor currently works with his father as a hurley maker in Newtownshandrum village.



Mannix College




  1. "Player profile: Ben O'Connor". Cork GAA website. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  2. "Best Munster team of last 25 years named". Hogan Stand website. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  3. "O'Connor calls time on Cork career". Official GAA website. 15 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  4. "Cork lament final fixture clash". Irish Examiner. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  5. "Under 21 Football & Hurling County Finals 1973 – Present". Cork GAA Finals. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  6. "Intermediate Hurling Finals 1970 – 2003". Cork GAA Finals. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  7. "Time's up for O'Connor". Cork Independent. 16 March 2012. Archived from the original on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  8. "Defence proves rock that champions perish on". Irish Examiner. 13 October 2003. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  9. "Newtown a class apart". Irish Examiner. 1 December 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  10. "Newtown's crowning glory". Irish Examiner. 18 March 2004. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  11. "Newtown sweep to victory". Irish Times. 17 October 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  12. "Ben's timely strike for Newtownshandrum". Irish Examiner. 5 December 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  13. "Portumna prevail in AIB CHL". 17 March 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  14. "Newtown know-how snuffs out Sars". Irish Examiner. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
  15. "The Banner is lowered as restless Rebels rule once more in Munster". Irish Examiner. 5 July 1999. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  16. "Pay off for Barry Murphy". Irish Examiner. 13 September 1999. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  17. "Mullane treble fails to halt Rebels". Irish Examiner. 30 June 2003. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  18. "Kilkenny stand firm under Cork onslaught". Irish Examiner. 15 September 2003. Archived from the original on 15 January 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  19. "MUNSTER SHC: Deise character conquers Cork". Irish Examiner. 28 June 2004. Archived from the original on 28 July 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  20. "Cork savour sweet victory". Irish Examiner. 13 September 2004. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  21. "Cork's 49ers repel resilient Tipp". Irish Examiner. 27 June 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  22. "Double delight as Rebels triumph". Irish Examiner. 12 September 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  23. "Calm champions just won't let go". Irish Examiner. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  24. "A glorious 29th for Kilkenny". Irish Examiner. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Fergal Ryan
Cork Senior Hurling Captain
Succeeded by
Wayne Sherlock
Preceded by
Alan Browne
Cork Senior Hurling Captain
Succeeded by
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín
Preceded by
D.J. Carey
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final
winning captain

Succeeded by
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín
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