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Mick O'Connell

Mick O’Connell from Valentia Island in Kerry is one of Gaelic football’s finest ever players. This wide-ranging interview opens with O’Connell discussing his family background and upbringing on Valentia Island, including his introduction to Gaelic football. The emphasis on fun and informality is highlighted. The informal games played on the island included those played among themselves and soccer matches with Spanish sailors. O’Connell’s first match came when he was 17 and he charts his progression as a player for club and county. He remarks on the lack of fanfare in the family when he made the county team and the backdrop of emigration in the 1950s. O’Connell himself remained on the island, taking up a job with the cable company organising his work around football, avoiding shift-work for fear it would impact on his sport. He talks about his approach to developing his skills, his belief in the importance of sportsmanship, relationships with other players, transport to training and games, his attitude towards post-match celebrations. Big games and major venues (and their facilities) are recalled, including such venues as Gaelic Park and Wembley Stadium. As well as shedding light on the character of Gaelic games in the middle decades, the life of an inter-county player and the geography of Kerry football, O’Connell discusses his move to England for work. He also talks about his personal life, meeting his wife and life after football. He reflects on writing his book, A Kerry Footballer, as well as his involvement in local politics. To conclude the interview, he talks about the Kerry football tradition and the impact that the GAA – and his profile in it – has had on his life, with reference to, amongst other things, the opportunities it has afforded him to see the world.

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