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Ben O'Connor: Made His Mark As One Of Cork's Best Hurling Forwards
Cork hurling fans were taking a great interest in a group of young under age hurlers from near the Limerick border and playing with their local club, Newtownshandrum, a real bastion of hurling deep in north Cork territory. The club had won the Cork county under 21 hurling championship in 1998 and foremost in their squad, was a flying wing forward who could leave his markers trailing far behind.
His name was Ben O’Connor and just a mere twelve months later, this wizard would set Cork and Croke Park alight with his scintillating runs down the touchline in the dying embers of the 1999 All Ireland final. He flicked over an inspirational point and Kilkenny fans sat back and admired the beauty of his skills. And for Cork, it was anticipated that Ben would be a major player in the upcoming years and he certainly delivered in so many ways.
With his club, Newtownshandrum, he annexed a glorious three consecutive Cork under 21 titles 1998; 1999 and 2000. At just seventeen he had already won a Cork intermediate hurling championship medal and magically the Cork club assumed the dizzy heights of becoming the Cork senior hurling champions for the first time ever in 2000. And the man at the helm was Bernie O’Connor, Ben’s dad and chief mentor. Twin brother Jerry was also making huge sporting headlines and making his own history on all the glorious teams alongside Ben.
This Newtown chapter in Cork hurling coincided with a new zest amongst the Cork senior hurling teams who claimed three All Ireland titles from 1999 to 2005. The O’Connor boys were lighting up Cork’s hurling world and Ben was a real thorn and a marked man for all teams who opposed Cork and Newtownshandrum. The tiny north Cork hamlet achieved the pinnacle of club hurling when in 2004, they were crowned All Ireland club senior hurling champions.
Further unprecedented glory was waiting for Ben and his beloved Newtownshandrum, when he captained Cork senior hurlers to a glorious All Ireland victory over Galway at Croke Park in 2005. The fairytale of the Newtownshandrum rise of the famous club, had now reached an unbelievable crescendo. Ben O’Connor became a household name all over Ireland wherever hurling was spoken. Apart from his majestic hurling skills at wing forward for his club and county, Ben was squeezing points over from all angles from frees. With his collection of silverware came two All Star awards in 2005 and 2008. In 2006 and 2008, his own Gaelic Players Association, selected him on their teams of the year and this recognition came from his inter county hurling peers.
His career in inter county hurling began at under 21 grade, first as a substitute and he came off the bench for the 1998 All Ireland final at Thurles and played a key role. The senior selectors were by now keeping a watching brief on his career and he duly made the progression to the senior side, when he made his maiden debut in the National hurling League. He made the championship fifteen in 1999 in the full forward line and when Cork defeated Clare, the favourites, Ben was playing a starring role.
In that dramatic 1999 All Ireland final Ben O’Connor had claimed his first celtic cross. The intervening years before his retirement in 2012 had made the popular hurler into a legendary hero and young players all over Ireland will strive to emulate Ben’s great skills and masterful striking. Ben O’Connor is now enrolled into the www.scoreboardmemories.com All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery for current and future generations to reflect on his great career.
Inter county Roll Of Honour - HURLING
All Ireland Senior Hurling Medals: 1999/2004/2005
All Ireland Under 21 Hurling Medals: 1998
All Ireland Club Senior Hurling Champions: 2004
Munster Senior Hurling Medals: 1999/ 2000/2003/2005/2006
Munster Under 21Hurling Medals: 1998
Munster Club Senior Hurling Medals: 2003; 2005; 2009.
All Star Awards: 2005; 2008
G.P.A. Team Of The Year: 2006; 2008
Cork Senior Hurling Medals: 2000; 2003; 2005; 2009.
Cork Intermediate Hurling Medal: 1996
Cork Under 21 Hurling Medals: 1998; 1999; 2000
Railway Cup Medal: 2005
All Ireland Vocational Schools Championship Medal: 1997
Composed by Derry JF Doody