GAA Football

Knee injury forces Marty O'Brien to retire

Fermanagh defender Marty O'Brien (right) has been forced to retire from inter-county football because of a long-standing knee injury. Picture by Philip Walsh

FERMANAGH have been dealt a blow with the news that Marty O’Brien has been forced to retire from inter-county football.

The Devenish defender, who will turn 29 next week, has been hampered in recent years by a troublesome knee injury.

O’Brien went under the knife in the off-season last year in a bid to solve the problem but he remained dogged by it throughout 2016 and, on the advice of doctors, he has played his last game for the Ernemen.

“Marty has had trouble with quite a bad knee the last couple of years. He had a bit of surgery done on it this time last year. He had to go back recently and they just felt that the knee couldn’t stand up any longer to the rigours of county football,” said Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath.

“Reluctantly, Marty has had to step back from inter-county football. He might be able to play a bit of club football but he’s been told by the medical team that to contemplate continuing at inter-county level could be damaging in the long term for him.

“It is an awful pity, not only because he was a very good footballer but he was a very good person to have around the camp. A man with a lot of common sense and a massive amount of honesty about him.

“Over the last few years I’ve found that the more important the game, the better Marty’s contribution was. It’s a loss but like every other person that goes, there has to be someone else there to pick up the slack and take the opportunity. It’s disappointing for him and we’re sad that Marty’s had to call time on his career,” he said.

The former Down boss has had mixed news in recent weeks in terms of the formation of his squad as they hope to build on a decent showing this year.

Conall Jones jetted off to Australia two weeks ago and missed his club Derrygonnelly’s Ulster Club meeting with Slaughtneil on Sunday. He is set to stay abroad for at least a year.

Their midfield options are further weakened by Richard O’Callaghan’s similar move.

“Conall is taking the year out to go to Australia. I didn’t see that coming down the tracks,” admitted McGrath.

“He’s young man that obviously wants to do a bit of travelling, and what can one do? He’s not the first to take that decision.

“Richie O’Callaghan told me away back in May that he was intending doing a bit of travelling starting in the Autumn and he wasn’t sure exactly when he would be returning to these shores.

“I spoke to Richard a fortnight before he left and we had a long chat about the whole thing. He’s just not sure when his return will be but at this stage we’re assuming he won’t be available, certainly for the National League, and whatever happens after that.

“We’re hoping that he might return but we won’t be factoring him into any long-term plans. Hopefully he’ll be returning sooner rather than later.”

Ciaran Flaherty has also opted out after a frustrating year on the fringes of the team, while veteran defender Niall Cassidy – who McGrath described as “an inspirational, warrior-type player” – also retired recently.

The return of Tiernan Daly from injury for the last 18 minutes for Derrygonnelly on Sunday were a boost, while Lee Cullen – a twin brother of Ché – will return to the panel after missing 2016 while studying for his final year at NUI Galway.

Tempo's Daryl Keenan, who has yet to play under McGrath, has had corrective work done to try and alleviate his injury problems and he will join up with the squad for next season.

After doubts over his future, goalkeeper Chris Snow has committed for one more year, while Ryan McCluskey’s rehabilitation from hip surgery is going well.

He has been able to undertake pre-season strength and conditioning work and McGrath is hopeful that McCluskey will be able to train on grass when they begin pitch sessions.

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