A leader, dedicated sports-man, hard-working volunteer are some of the traits used to describe a young Ennis man whose untimely passing occurred over the weekend.
On Friday, David O’Connor died peacefully aged 27 at University Hospital Limerick after a short illness. From Ballybeg in Ennis, he had recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Limerick and is best known for a rugby career that saw him line out for clubs in Clare, Galway and Limerick.
From an early age, DOC as he was more affectionately known became a lively and popular figure for Ennis RFC, a club that he held a deep passion for and made many contributions to both on and off the field lining out at all levels from minis all the way through to U18s and senior. Along the way, he was always supported by his parents Martin and Mary and his brother Ciarán.
While studying in Galway, he played for Galwegians from 2015 to 2017. After this spell, O’Connor moved to UL Bohs, his last match taking place for them prior to taking ill in recent weeks.
The Limerick club in a tribute described him as “a gentleman both on and off the pitch. He represented the core values of rugby and of our club each and every day. He gave his time and showed respect to everyone he came across, he was a leader in every aspect of the word, and above all, he gave 100% to everything he did, and enjoyed each and every moment. DOC was the representation of everything good about rugby and about sport, he will be dearly missed by his teammates and our club. He was, and is, the best teammate you could hope for”.
Gerry Lynch alongside Martin, Ray Kenny, Mike Corey and Brian Moore coached DOC from U8 to U18. Speaking to The Clare Echo, Gerry said he was lucky to coach a man of David’s calibre. “He always had the ability to make you think he was in great form, he was always the fella with the smile and having a bit of craic”.
As the years passed by, players came and went, Gerry recalled that it was during these formative teenage years that DOC came into his own alongside Cormac Murphy, Alan Brandon and Adam Ryan. “We got to see him develop as a player and react as different players came in to join the group. Underage you will turn over big numbers, at one stage we used to have two teams in every tournament we would go to, you saw DOC develop as a player and as a leader”.
“He was a natural leader, a very good player and all the young lads would gravitate towards DOC. We learned more from coaching him than he learned from us,” the former Ennis RFC treasurer stated.
President of Ennis RFC, Richie Murphy outlined that DOC was among one of the first volunteers ready to lend a helping hand for the club be it coaching underage teams or aiding in preparations for the use of facilities during Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. “He was always willing to give a hand, he stepped in to coach the underage teams when we were short-handed he put his hand up and volunteered”.
News of his sudden passing has impacted a lot of people, Murphy acknowledged. “It has hit a lot of people in the club hard, he has been around the place since he was a little kid, a lot of people would have had interaction with him down through the years and his family. There is a deep sense of sadness there for the loss of David but also the impact on his parents, brother and family”.
Not being able to come together as a club to pay their respects is a difficult experience, Gerry noted with a private funeral mass held on Wednesday. “The essence of a club is people coming together both socially and on the sporting field, you get to know all the families, their parents, the brothers and sisters, it is difficult and very difficult for Martin, Mary and Ciarán”.