|THE NIGHT I THOUGHT MY CAREER WAS OVER|
The date, 13-8-02, and the 13th of August that year certainly proved an unlucky day for Sean O'Connor. Only one minute remained in the Challenge Cup tie between Queens and Morton at Palmerston as the big striker collected the ball on the right flank and dragged it to the corner flag to run down the clock. Three minutes earlier Sean had netted the goal which had given Queens a 1-0 lead but as he shielded the ball in the corner he was unceremoniousely scythed to the ground by a vicious knee-high tackle from Morton's Colin Reilly.
"It was my worst moment in football" Sean recalls "the pain was excruciating and I actually thought it was the end of my football career".
Club physio, Kenny Crichton remembers the moment well. Said Kenny "When I reached Sean his leg was bent at an horrific angle. He was writhing in agony on the ground and pleading for me to give him something to ease the terrible pain. We carried him off on a stretcher but after the final whistle we had to take him to the waiting ambulance via the Morton dressing room owing to the narrow passageways under the stand. That turned out to be a very strange experience indeed".
Ironically, the player who inflicted the gruesome injury, Colin Reilly, was a friend and team-mate of Seans at both Dundee United and Morton. Did he ever apologise we asked Sean? "I've never spoken to him since that night--in fact I've never even set eyes on the guy since then" he confessed.
Sean leaves the field on a stretcher
As we all know, Queens did win that match 1-0 and went on to lift the Challenge Cup at Broadwood a couple of months later. In contrast the cup-final proved to be Sean's most memorable moment. "I made my comeback from the injury that day. I was on the bench at the start but the manager sent me on in the second half. It was just great to be back playing again and tremendous to win the cup" he proudly reflected.
Team-mate Jim Thomson was full of praise for the big striker. "He's done really well to bounce back from two serious injuries and he's now finding the net regularly. He's getting himself into good scoring positions and could well have netted a few more goals than he actually has. I've often to mark him at training matches and he's a big, strong lad. Some of the boys say it's difficult knocking him off the ball when he's in possession but I've nae bother at a'. I know his weak spot" concluded Jim with a laugh.
Born in Wolverhampton in 1981, Sean was involved in youth football in the Midlands as a youngster and was signed by Hednesford Town when only 17. He was then signed by Dundee United in 1999 and moved north of the border. Following a brief loan spell with Morton he returned to Tannadice but was snapped up by Queens in March 2002 for the bargain fee of £10,000.
He describes Queens as a "brilliant" club which is very well run. "We've done really well over the past two years and I think our success is down to the tremendous team spirit in the dressing room. I really enjoy it here at Palmerston, they're a great bunch of lads" he emphasised. Sean names his parents as having the biggest influence on his career. "They have encouraged me since the day I started playing football and have always been there for me when needed, also my fiancee, Sarah, who I stay with in Dundee who backs me all the way".
Away from football he enjoys a game of snooker and his favourite sportsmen are David Beckham and Tiger Woods. Of Beckham he says "It's remarkable how he copes with all the publicity" and describes Tiger as "An exceptionally talented golfer who handles pressure brilliantly". And his ambitions for the future "To play football for as long as I can, and I'd love to get a chance to play in the Premier League in either Scotland or England. The ideal scenario, of course, would be for Queens to win promotion and the club revert to full-time football but that's being a bit too optimistic I suppose as the Premier League ruling on 10,000 all-seaters grounds would not allow it".
At the quarter-way mark of the season Sean was joint leading scorer in Division One with seven league goals to his credit. He was just returning to top form but luck deserted him again when he limped off injured in the match against St Johnstone two weeks ago with a knee injury. So here's wishing you a speedy recovery big man.