Noel Connors remains busy
By Cian O'Connell
Noel Connors spent more than a decade on the inter-county beat with Waterford.
So when the call came from new manager Liam Cahill, who had fresh plans for 2020, Connors quietly dealt with the situation.
"It was a shock," the highly regarded Connors admits. "I was the captain in 2019 and that, but look, that was Liam’s decision. It was just a conversation on the phone one October night as far as I can remember. He just asked me if I was going to retire and I kind of said ‘no, why would I?’
"Obviously, like, I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’ve missed two matches in 11 years, one through injury against Laois and one against Cork last year when we didn’t have much to play for and it was a complete change of the 15 and that was it really."
Connors is far from making an issue about Cahill's call to omit him from the panel. "To be honest, it was just something that completely hit me by surprise, it wasn’t something that I was expecting obviously," Connors adds.
"I don’t know Liam, I’ve never met him before, it was the only conversation I’ve ever had with him. I was just after coming back from a camogie match at about 8pm, my little cousin was playing a club camogie county final and I came back and the phone was ringing.
"Generally I don’t like answering the phone in the night time, but it was Liam, just a brief conversation, asking me if I was going to retire and I said no and he just said you’re not in our plans going forward."
In the intervening months has Connors reflected on his Waterford career?
"It’s funny," Connors replies. "I was actually talking to one of the lads yesterday who would have played with Waterford for a good few years, Stephen Roche. And we were discussing, Stephen is a teacher in St Paul’s up the road, and I’m obviously in WIT lecturing.
"We’re actually busier now than we were when we were playing, because when you know when you’re playing, you are solely focused on playing and making sure that you’re going through your process and your routine.
"You just have one thing to focus on. Now you’re focusing on your career, you’re looking at research in my instance, I’m getting married next year, I’ve an 18-month child at home.
"So your perspective completely changes. But you find so many other things. I find myself busier than I was when I was with Waterford, which is strange enough."
To cope with the transition how vital is it to have a busy schedule?
"It’s something that I would have learned early on in my career," Connors remarks. "Thankfully I had the support of my family and Siobhan and that, that I would have been very focused on the off-field stuff, nearly more so than the on-field stuff.
"I suppose the on-field stuff is a reflection of what happens off it. If you’re in a career where you’re happy, you’re going to work and you feel like you’re adding value, well therefore you’re going to training and you’re happy and you’re feeling that you’re adding value here as well.
"Once you’re happy and you’re going to training and putting in an effort, it’s full-circle really. I would have spent quite a lot of time as a student obviously.
"Working in WIT the last three years, it’s incredibly enjoyable and something that I love.
"So the off-field stuff now is becoming the forefront. Obviously having a child, all those different things are fitting into place quite well."
Despite the fact that Connors isn't currently involved with Waterford, the proud Passage clubman doesn't rule out wearing the white and blue jersey in the future.
"I don’t know would I close the door," Connors comments. "I think if you ask any player who has played for Waterford or any county team in the past, you know, if they were asked would they play with their county again, I don’t think too many would say no.
"At the end of the day, you grow up wanting to play for your county and it’s obviously been a dream and I don’t think any fella would turn their back on their county.
"It’s basically an extension of your club and you’d never turn your back on your club really."
Through his studies and ongoing research on the GAA, Connors acknowledges that the role of clubs in their communities was never greater than this year.
"I think at times we forget the significance of the GAA club," Connors states. "It’s just kind of a given, it’s just expected it’s there.
"Whereas in times of uncertainty and ambiguity, when things are lost and you get frustrated, it’s then when you start reflecting on things and think you’re lucky to have an organisation that is so unique and so different.
"The one thing is we can’t forget that and we can’t lose sight of that, and we can’t become like every other organisation that gets caught up in the commercial things, trying to become professional, and all those different things that you may sell your soul out for finance."
Solid and sensible, Connors provided sterling service on the field of play too for the Deise.