He was born in 1955 in Barna and raised in Mervue near Galway city. There was music on both sides of his family but it was while visiting his paternal grandparents both of whom played the accordion that he was captivated by the instrument. He started playing at the age of nine, at first listening to players such as Joe Burke, Finbarr Dwyer and Tony Mac Mahon and Joe Cooley. He also listened to old 78′rpm records of groups like The Flanagan Brothers and recordings of old pipers such as Patsy Touhy and melodeon players John J Kimmel and PJ Conlon and of course radio and TV programmes of traditional music.
In 1976 he was invited by the great singer songwriter Thom Moore to join his band Midnight Well. During this time, apart from recording with Midnight Well, he recorded his first solo album The Connachtman’s Rambles (1978), a major critical success that had a long run in the British folk charts. Since then he has performed, toured and recorded with The Boys of the Lough (1980), Reel Union (1982), De Dannan (1983-1987) and Skylark (1992-1996).
He played on Bill Whelan’s “Seville Suite” and was part of the first Riverdance orchestra in 1995, the year in which he received the AIB Traditional Musician of the Year award in his hometown of Galway. The following year he was presented with the Co. Galway Premier Arts Award from Galway Co. Council.
He was also invited to play on the prestigious Paris Musette record series (vol.2 and vol.3) chronicling the history the Musette in the early 90′s.
His second solo album Perpetual Motion (1990) explored music outside the Irish tradition and was nominated for a Bank of Ireland Arts award. This was followed by three albums of his own compositions, two of which are Chatterbox (1993) and The Road West (2001). In 2003 he was commissioned to compose music for the St. Patrick’s festival in Dublin. The Rain of Light Fireworks Suite can be heard on the cd Rain of Light (2003), along with other compositions. These albums are considered innovative, groundbreaking and captivating.
He has composed music for theatrical productions TV documentaries and film and has been a session and guest musician on many recordings by national and international artists. In 2013 he was commissioned to compose a piece of music for the European Conference on Dolphins and Whales held in Galway.
His playing can also be heard on the soundtrack for a film version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, composed by Shaun Davey and on Bill Whelan’s soundtrack compositions for the films Dancing at Lughnasa and Some Mother’s Son.
In 2009 he was presented with the Fiddlers Green Hall of Fame Award in Rostrevor, Co. Down.
For more than a decade he has recorded and toured around the world with Cathal Hayden, Seamie O Dowd and Jimmy Higgins. They have recorded two CDs, Crossroads and Going Places.
In 2013 he travelled around Ireland on an Arts Council Network tour with Zoe Conway and Donal Lunny. Since then they’ve continued to work together as a trio.
In addition, some of Máirtín’s tunes can be heard on recordings of various artists and at sessions.
He recently published a book containing 60 of his compositions called Inside the Box; Outside the Box, launched at NUIG where Máirtín was also conferred with an honorary M.A for his contribution to traditional music. The book also contains a wealth of photographs, some taken by Máirtín himself, stories and anecdotes with illustrations by Tony Corr and Joe Boske. The book portrays Máirtín O’Connor’s personality just as his music has done for forty years. He now lives in Annaghdown. Co. Galway.