Sean-Og1clipIt’s a cliché, sure, but the reluctantly retired Seán Óg Ó hAilpín has transcended GAA and indeed Irish sport.

It’d be a lie to say he was so well-known on account of his skills, but he didn’t win the 2004 Hurler of the Year award and captain Cork to an All-Ireland a year later, ‘as Gaeilge’, without being a hell of a player, and someone who overcame obvious deficiencies in his game through hard work. (And like Tony B, until this week he was still seen as the embodiment of: if you’re fit enough, you’re young enough.)

It was because of his background — Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s geography lesson that went, “His father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold” — and his striking looks that Seán Óg stood out; and like all true icons the surname was superfluous. Often abused, he broke down racial barriers for the dozens of young lads of foreign extraction destined to play senior inter-county football and hurling in the coming years.