Sitting in an empty DCU canteen on a cold evening, Diarmuid O’Connor griped his coffee cup as he stared at the empty table. He had just played his final game for DCU.
The Mayo star had just been through a war. A four point Sigerson Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of UCD was not the way he envisioned ending an ‘unreal’ four years with Niall Moyna’s team.
Yet Diarmuid reminisced about better days and four years of successes and memories.
He loved being part of something different, and the opportunity to play with players from all over the country at Third Level.
“It’s the only opportunity you get really to play with lads from all over the country and just the craic we have on and off the pitch, yeah, it’s a great competition,” he said.
His memory drifted towards triumph at the Mardyke in 2015.
Diarmuid was part of DCU’s most recent Sigerson victory that saw Moyna’s men capture the crown after extra time against UCC.
“I love playing Sigerson [Cup], since my first year that I started I was lucky enough to win it out but it’s unreal just playing with lads the same age as you in college and from different counties, it’s a great opportunity,” he said, almost bearing a smile.
Preparation this year hasn’t been ideal, a lot of players are tied up with inter-county commitments.
DCU’s cause wasn’t helped as third level institutions were not involved in this year’s O’Byrne Cup, which meant it was difficult to keep the team together.
“It is tough to pull everyone together, especially not playing in the O’Byrne Cup this year as well,” he said.
“We haven’t played together that much at all.”
The new year is a busy time for young GAA players, as club competitions conclude before the Christmas break and preseason competitions kick off just days into the new year, but it’s something that makes the Sigerson Cup challenging in Diarmuid’s eyes.
He reflected back on the game. UCD faced the same problems. There’s no room for excuses at such a high level.
“Yeah obviously it’s a tough competition,” he said. “There’s lads being pulled in every direction with their county under 21’s and county seniors. Even at the end of last year, there’s club under 21 and club senior as well.
“[Players are] getting pulled in all different directions, so it’s tough to have everyone committed from the start to the end.
“I suppose it was the same for UCD as well, we can’t be making too many excuses but it is tough.”
Diarmuid looked up from the table, and let go of his coffee. The Ballintubber man has had an excellent career with Mayo and DCU so far and undoubtedly will go on and achieve more success, but he will always remember his time in DCU fondly.
He’s disappointed to finish his time in DCU with defeat but also hasn’t lost sight of how much he has enjoyed his four years with DCU.
“This is my final year in DCU so you know it’s disappointing that we can’t have everyone together as long as we would have liked,” he said.
“It’s a great competition, the Sigerson Cup, I really enjoy playing it.”
Image Credit: Mark Carroll