Once Geelong young gun grabbed Max Holmes grabbed at his hamstring in the third quarter of Cat’s Preliminary Final against Brisbane, the fates of Mark O’Connor and Brandan Parfitt were inextricably linked.

If Holmes didn’t get up, it was likely one of the pair was in and the other in line to be named as the medical sub.

O’Connor, speaking to online Irish news site The 42 ahead of his Gaelic Football return for Dingle against Dr Crokes on the weekend, said the lead-up to the Grand Final was an emotional time.

“I kind of had a strong feeling. I also knew if I was playing Brandon (Parfitt) who is a close friend of mine was going to be the medical sub. When I found out, he was in a hotel room across the hall from me,” O’Connor said.

“I didn’t know if he knew. We had both made promises to each other that if one of us found out we’d tell the other. Anyway, I got the call. I just walked across the hall and gave him a big hug. 

“I was delighted for him and he came on and kicked a goal. It just worked out incredible. It was emotional when I went across to him. He was one of the lads who came to Dingle a couple of years ago with me and we’re very close.”

The weekend’s 10-point Gaelic victory was the first time O’Connor had been able to pull on his home colours since 2018 when he played against Austin Stacks; a combination of injury and quarantine quashing his previous attempts at a homecoming. 

This year, however, has been different, with O’Connor a part of a traveling Cats contingent who have landed in the Emerald Isle on a post season holiday and who also populated the stands at Austin Stack Park to cheer on their teammate in a game that clearly means a lot to the 25-year-old. 

“Last year I could have played for Dingle and I needed surgery,” he said. 

“I thought I was ok with that. It was a long season, I was pretty tired. Then I watched the game, we lost and I felt terrible. I’ve been thinking about that ever since.”

Reflecting on Geelong’s Grand Final win two weeks after the fact, O’Connor said it was what dreams are made of. 

“It is the flow state they talk about in psychology and you always aspire for,” he said.

“I mean, everything. It was all fairytale stuff. Joel (Selwood) kicking his goal and retiring after having that game as a Premiership-winning captain. If it was in a movie you’d say it is cringy and not true. Zach’s 250th game, him with the Portlaoise flag afterwards. There was so much that went into it.”