After spearheading St. Peter's College to their first Leinster title in 25 years back in 2017, murmurs began to spread throughout the country about the talented St. Martin's. Those murmurs soon echoed 'down under' and Sydney Swans soon came calling. The multi talented star soon left the round ball and sliotar to one side, to pit himself against Australia's best with the egg shaped ball. Last year the Swans gave him a contract extension and now he enters the business end of the season as they seek glory at all levels. This week we went ClubSpotting with Wexford native Barry O'Connor.
What are your first memories of your club St. Martin’s?
My earliest memories of St. Martins and sport in general are quite funny actually. At the beginning (as a 5 or 6 year old), I was easily distracted during games and would often take a seat in the middle of the field to shoot the breeze with my friends! That didn’t last long though and I quickly became obsessed with hurling and football. I was lucky enough to play with my cousins growing up too so I have some wonderful memories.
Who were your sporting idols growing up?
I rarely missed a Wexford game growing up, be it hurling or football, so I had idols on both teams. Diarmuid and Ciarán Lyng, Eoin Quigley, and Matty Forde are a few that spring to mind.
What has been the proudest moment of your playing career?
Probably winning the Leinster Championship and reaching the All-Ireland Final with my school St. Peters College in 2017. It was such a unique experience to have the whole school cheering us on at every game, a really special time for everyone involved. Winning the Wexford Senior Hurling title in 2017 with my family and friends is also something I’ll never forget.
Toughest opponent you have faced?
I’ve been fortunate enough to compete at a high level across a few different sports, which means I’ve played against some very tough opponents. On the hurling field, I faced Kyle Hayes at minor and Fitzgibbon Cup level and was in awe of his mixture of athleticism and skill. In Gaelic Football, I’ve come up against some tough defenders over the years but Matty Forde tore us apart from full forward in a county semi-final in 2018 at the age of 39, showing that class is permanent. In AFL I am a defender and am tasked with playing on opposition tall forwards every week so it’s hard to pick one!
Best Player you have played with?
My cousin Rory is the best hurler that I’ve played with, he’s almost impossible to stop and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can achieve in the coming years. Daithí Waters and Ciarán Lyng are two Wexford football stalwarts that I’ve been fortunate enough to call teammates, whilst at the Swans I play with one of the greatest AFL players of all time, Lance “Buddy” Franklin.
Any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
Nothing noteworthy other than the various nutrition and physical preparation steps that I take before a game.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since moving to Sydney Swans?
There are so many challenges for an Irishman embarking on an AFL career but the biggest one without doubt is closing the gap in ability with my teammates and opponents who have been playing the sport for their whole lives. I try to continuously improve every day and am always assessing my game to see what needs to be worked on.
What are your hopes and ambitions for 2022?
I’m currently coming towards the end of the season with Sydney and have been playing with the VFL team for the year. We have our sights set on winning the Premiership at AFL and VFL level so a big few weeks lie ahead for us.
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