George O'Connor (hurler)
|Irish name||Seoirse Ó Conchubhair|
Piercestown, County Wexford, Ireland
George O'Connor (born 1959 in Piercestown, County Wexford) is a retired Irish sportsperson. He played hurling with his local club St. Martin's and with the Wexford senior inter-county team from 1979 until 1996. O'Connor is regarded as one of Wexford's greatest-ever players.
George O’Connor was born in Piercestown, County Wexford in 1959. The second eldest in a sporting family of four boys, he has born into a hurling household. His father, Paddy O’Connor, was a star midfielder on the Wexford junior hurling team that captured the Leinster title in 1940, a launchpad for the future successes of the 1950s. O'Connor grew up on the family farm and in time would become a farmer himself.
O'Connor played his club hurling and football with his local St. Martin's club where his skills were nurtured at underage level. The club won the county minor hurling championship in 1974, with O'Connor sharing in the success as a fourteen-year-old substitute. By the time the three-in-a-row at minor level was completed in 1976, O’Connor had become the star player on the team. He was also a key figure at midfield in 1977 as St. Martins captured the intermediate hurling championship. This victory allowed the club to advance to the senior grade, however, O'Connor's side found winning a senior title difficult. They reached the final four on a number of occasions throughout the 1980s, however, the team failed to make the breakthrough.
On the football fields O'Connor helped St. Martin's to win the intermediate championship in 1982.
O'Connor first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Wexford minor hurling team in the late 1970s. He captained the team to the 1977 Leinster final, however, Wexford were denied victory on that occasion. In his final year as a minor O'Connor also played in the Leinster football final, however, Dublin denied Wexford. In 1979 he captured a Leinster under-21 title as Wexford surprisingly defeated Kilkenny. The team were later beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. These games brought O'Connor to the attention of the senior selectors and he quickly made the step up to the ultimate grade.
O'Connor made his senior debut in the 1979 Oireachtas final. Wexford defeated Offaly on that occasion, however, this competition was regarded as little more than a warm up for the National Hurling League. Two years later in 1981 O'Connor was one of the stars of the team. Success was slow in coming, however, he was presented with an All-Star award. Two years later in 1983 O'Connor had success on the football field as Wexford defeated Clare to win the Division 3 final of the National Football League. Over the next decade or so Wexford would appear in five Leinster hurling finals, however, the team would be defeated on every occasion. Similarly, the National League final of 1993 saw Wexford battle it out with Cork in a three-game saga that eventually resulted in defeat for the Wexford men.
The following year Wexford crashed out of the provincial championship once again and O'Connor contemplated retirement. New manager Liam Griffin persuaded him to stay on as he was a key part of his plans. 1995 saw Wexford endure defeat again, however, 1996 was to be their year. O'Connor endured a hand injury in the provincial semi-final against Dublin, however, he made a cameo appearance in the final as he collected his first Leinster title. It was Wexford's first provincial title since 1977. The subsequent All-Ireland final saw Wexford take on Limerick, the defeated finalists of 1994. O'Connor started at midfield for that game, however, the game itself was far from a classic as fourteen-man Wexford defeated the Munstermen giving O'Connor a coveted All-Ireland medal. One of the iconic images of that All-Ireland final is of O'Connor, the oldest man on the field, being shouldered off in victory. After seventeen seasons in the Wexford jersey O'Connor decided to finally retire from inter-county hurling.
- Martin Breheny & Colm Keys, The Chosen Ones: Celebrating 1000 All-Stars, (Blackwater Press, 2004)