It’s possible that had the stars aligned somewhat differently that Wexford’s Jack O’Connor would be preparing for action in the Aviva Stadium this weekend rather than heading to Boston for the Aer Lingus Fenway Hurling Classic.
O’Connor is a versatile sportsman and growing up he was an accomplished out-half with Wexford Wanderers, with his talent recognised when he was selected at No.10 on an U-17 South Leinster side.
But that was as far as he progressed as it was the out-half for North Leinster, Joey Carbery, who pushed on from there and made it into the professional game and will be on the bench for Ireland tomorrow afternoon against the All Blacks.
The was an inevitability though, given that his dad John and uncle George were renowned Wexford hurlers, that O’Connor would concentrate on hurling regardless of his prowess at rugby or Gaelic football.
I really enjoyed rugby and would still have a keen intertest in it, not least given how well Tadhg Furlong has done. We are very proud of him, he’s waving the Wexford flag and it’s great.
I never played against him, he’s a couple of years ahead of me but I do remember an U-12 Gaelic football match that he was playing for Horeswood — there is footage of it online — against us in Wexford Park. I was on the bench that day for St Martin’s and thankfully didn’t come up against him but there is footage of him going up the field and taking a few lads with him.
“But we are very proud of him and all that he has achieved. He comes back home and helps out every chance he gets and it’s great to see,” said O’Connor, who was in the Aviva Stadium last weekend to see Ireland beat Argentina.
O’Connor is hoping that he will get to see Ireland against the All Blacks tomorrow on television in Boston. Wexford will train tomorrow (SAT) at Stonehill College in south Boston in preparation for Sunday’s Aer Lingus Fenway Hurling Classic at Fenway Park but they are hoping to get back to watch the rugby match in the afternoon.
O’Connor said he is looking forward to playing in Fenway Park and while it is the first time Wexford have participated, the concept of the 11-a-side game is something they are familiar with.
“Actually, we played a few practice matches of it before under Liam Dunne a couple of years ago. It was in between league and championship and we just wanted to do something different. It was enjoyable and the fitness aspect of it was very good as well.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in Fenway Park, there is so much history attached to the ground and it will be great to be able to say that I played there,” he added.
Younger brother Rory, who broke into the Wexford side last year, will not be participating as he is in South Africa volunteering with the Niall Mellon Township Trust, while middle brother Harry spent the summer working in Boston and has been filling him in on what to expect.
“He hurled with Boston Tipperary for the summer. There is a lot of Wexford people out there and they are looking forward to the matches on Sunday. It should be a great occasion,” added the 24-year old.
Wexford meet All-Ireland champions Limerick in the second semi-final on Sunday with the winners taking on either Cork or Clare in the final. All three games will be broadcast live by TG4, starting at 5.30pm Irish time on Sunday.
Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile