IT’S a poignant image that will be ingrained forever in the memories of those that witnessed it.
On St Patrick’s Day 2017, moments after Killarney’s Dr Crokes bridged a 25-year gap since their only previous All-Ireland Club title, team captain Johnny Buckley scaled the steps of the Hogan Stand, said the obligatory few words and glanced behind him.
Croke Park fell silent as a sweet little girl, wearing a black and amber knitted club cap and number 10 jersey, walking with the aid of crutches, carefully negotiated her way down the steps to join the skipper on the victory podium.
The crowd roared as a beaming, proud, beautiful Amy O’Connor carved her way into the hearts of the nation when she helped Johnny raise the Andy Merrigan Cup aloft to celebrate one of the greatest days in her beloved club’s history.
The lovely smile that lit up the face of 10-year-old Amy, from Whitebridge Manor in Killarney, also illuminated Croke Park as she graciously accepted the invitation – and didn’t she just love it.
That magical, never to be forgotten gesture was one of those moments in time that can bring the country to a standstill.
It was a lovely moment and the captain referenced the major impression that Amy had made when talking to team in the build-up to the final.
Less than 12 months later, on February 25 last year, Amy passed away but today – on the week her classmates in Gaelscoil Faithleann made their confirmation – she will very much be in the thoughts of Dr Crokes players and supporters as they make their way to Croke Park for the big occasion.
In a moving video on social media in the lead-up to today’s big game, Amy’s dad Brendan, posted footage of Amy’s journey, including that special day in 2017 which he described as “unforgettable, ever vivid and heartwarming”
He said he hoped the Crokes will make more unforgettable memories this afternoon.
“Somewhere behind the football players you’ve all become, and the hours of practice you put in, and the coaches and backroom staff who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back. Thank you,” Brendan said.
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