Mick O'Connell on why he sees his legendary Kerry achievements as nothing more than "incidental"

January 4th 2017 is the GAA legend's 80th birthday

BY Raf Diallo 19:50 Wednesday 4 January 2017, 19:50 4 Jan 2017

Mick O'Connell ©INPHO

In all during an inter-county career that spanned the length of two decades, Mick O'Connell was left with an over-flowing trophy and medal cabinet.

In the Kerry man's possession are four All Ireland titles, 12 Munster crowns and four National Football Leagues.

That stellar era of success ran from 1956 to 1974, encompassing many eras in Gaelic football's history.

January 4th happens to be O'Connell's birthday and 2017 marks the year he turns 80.

The Valentia Island born midfielder joined Off The Ball to reflect on his outstanding career for his native Kingdom.

"To me, I grew up when football was a pastime and you played at weekends with a bit of practice during the week, and everything else was incidental. There were more important things to be doing and that's the background that I came from," he said of taking football glory in his stride even when it came to not feeling the need to celebrate victories with particular gusto.

"There was no such thing as days after matches. Triumph and disaster came the same to me. Losing a match wasn't a disaster. That was the thinking I had on the game," he said.

Growing up in a fishing community, he added that he regarded sporting success as a "bonus" and not a "passion as such".

"I played football first of all because I liked it. If I were born somewhere else, it would probably be soccer or something that I would have played. Gaelic was the game in this locality. I happened to play it by accident," he said, adding that it was "incidental" and football was not necessarily the No 1 thing in his life.

O'Connell also recalled that the crews of Spanish fishing trawlers who moored on his native island meant he got an introduction to soccer during his youth.

Rather than coaching, he explained that for him "example is the best coach of all" in terms of how he picked up the skills of Gaelic football in his formative years.

He also explained why he doesn't class his time playing Gaelic football as a "career".

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