K rock Football

Support from afar for O’Connor

Mark O’Connor in action for Geelong in the preliminary final win over the Brisbane Lions. (AFL Photos/Getty Images Image/Quinn Rooney)

IT won’t only be Geelong that will be buzzing as the Cats look to snatch their 10th VFL/AFL premiership on Saturday night.

16,931kms from the heat of the action at the Gabba, the small Irish town of Dingle, population 2050, will be taking more than a passing interest in the action.

Located on the south-west coast in County Kerry, Dingle is home to Geelong defender Mark O’Connor, who, along with teammate Zach Tuohy, will look to join Sydney great Tadhh Kennelly as Irishmen to taste the ultimate success in the AFL.

“Next stop is America, to the west of Dingle. It’s a bit remote but very touristy,” O’Connor, who will play game 51 in the grand final, said of the village where he grew up.

“It’s a town where everyone knows everyone. At the minute, everyone knows I’m in a grand final, so they’ve been sending messages through and supporting me, which has been good.”

O’Connor’s biggest supporters are his family, who have enjoyed the majority of night matches played by Geelong this year, allowing for them to gather in the sitting room at a suitable hour to watch their son and brother in action.

Brother John, who spent 2019 in Australia and watched every Cats game live, will join middle sibling David and their parents in being glued to the action from Brisbane.

“We have a little bit of a routine going here,” John told K rock’s Departure Lounge.

“We get up on a Saturday morning and watch it here in the sitting room.

“We’ll keep that going to not break any rituals.”

A talented Gaelic footballer as a junior, Mark O’Connor made the life-changing decision in 2016 to throw in his lot on the other side of the world.

Geelong won the race for his signature, and after only five matches in his first two seasons, the 23-year-old has played 43 of a possible 45 matches since the start of 2019.

O’Connor’s standing among the playing group skyrocketing to the point where was included in the Cats’ leadership group for 2020.

“It’s a small amount of responsibility,” he said. But, if they vote you into a leadership group on what you’ve done, it’s an acknowledgement that you’re doing something right.

“I pride myself on the relationships I’m building here at the club. I try and make everyone feel comfortable around the place, and I try and drive standards myself.

“I’ve been able to learn in a bit more detail from the likes of Joel (Selwood) and Paddy (Dangerfield), and the rest of the leadership group about how they go about things, which has been very eye-opening as well, and a great learning experience for me.”

Geelong was no match for Richmond when the two teams met in Round 17, with the Tigers suffocating the Cats’ ball movement as they cruised to a 26-point win.

“They came in with a really good game plan that worked for them on the night,” O’Connor said.

“We’ll work on a few things and hopefully come up with a good game plan ourselves.

Twitter: @tom_king79