O’Connor hooks away competition to make TOTY

Conor Breslin

Rory O'Connor playing for Wexford against Clare

Wexford and DCU hurling star Rory O’Connor adds another award to his list as he has been named on the 2018 Bord Gáis Energy U21 Team of the Year at centre half forward.

The 20-year-old St Martins club man said that while the award was an absolute honour, he felt that it was undeserved since he only played two out of Wexford’s three games as they were defeated by Cork in the All Ireland semi-final.

A knee injury prevented Rory from lining out in Nowlan Park as he saw his team brutally beaten by 22 points at the hands of the Rebel county.

“I’ve been quite lucky over the last number of years in the achievements I won, it was a privilege to receive the award but from a team point of view the semi-final wasn’t good enough and I think the award was handed to me on merit more than anything else,” O’Connor told The College View.

O’Connor comes from a great tradition of hurling legends with his grandfather Paddy lining out midfield for Wexford in the 1940s, while his father John O’Connor and uncle George O’Connor both won All-Ireland medals with Wexford in 1996.

His brothers, Harry and Jack O’Connor, have also played for Wexford in the underage grades.

“You think when your family is so successful it would put pressure on you to follow in their footsteps but not for one minute did I ever feel pressured, all I wanted to do was play hurling and see where it takes me.

“When I was 15 I dropped all other sports to focus merely on GAA including club rugby, which we were the most successful team in Leinster at the time,” O’Connor said.

Rory played both county minor hurling and football for Wexford until he began suffering with leg and knee injuries after playing a bizarre 20 games in 15 weeks.

In 2017 just after finishing his Leaving Cert exams, Rory was a late call up to Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford senior panel and was told he would make his Championship start in the All Ireland quarter final against Waterford.

This information however was hidden from the press by Fitzgerald to protect the then 18-year-old.

“I didn’t even tell my family I was starting, some of my teammates probably didn’t even know who I was.

“Even though I was intimidated I made sure to do the simple things right, I wasn’t going to be replaced by nobody, I had to prove myself, I had to be tough and I carry that same hunger to every game I play now.” O’Connor said.

Over the past 12 months Rory has captured the Wexford county championship, the third in his club’s history, a fresher A hurling All Ireland with DCU and now an Under 21 All Star.

With Wexford getting to four All Ireland quarter finals in the last five years, Rory believes he is apart of a team that will have Liam McCarthy in their hands very soon.

Conor Breslin

Image Credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile