Oran Kearney talks to Andy Conn for LinfieldFC.com
"This day has to come for every footballer. Probably in my mindset, I thought it would have been when I was 35, 36 or 37. When you reach that sort of age that's what you would expect but premature retirements due to injury are part and parcel of the game. To have to make this decision at the age of 30 has required a lot of thought and soulsearching. It's not a decision I'm taking lightly.
Throughout, my career I suppose it's been a rollercoaster. I suppose that's the best way to describe it. I've had the four serious injuries. That's been the negative side of it all. Probably the time that I've had at this club and getting to enjoy the Clean Sweep and other trophies have been the most unbelievable and undescribeable highs and memories.
I could look at this negatively and say I've been robbed, in that I should have or am owed another 5 years. That's life however. These things happen. The way however I look at it is, say I had have played till 38, 39 or 40 and played at another club and won nothing, I would much rather have been here and won the clean sweep and all the other trophies by the time I was 30, even though it meant having to retire through injury at 30. Given the choice, I wouldn't change a thing. Winning medals means everything and I'd rather retire at 30 with all my medals than play till the age of 40 for no medals. I've no regrets whatsoever. Yes, I have to look at my life now and say, I've got to move on to the next stage but I'll always look back very fondly at the time I've spent here.
The two knee operations that I've had have been pretty straightforward and caused no problems whatsoever with the rehab. The biggest issue however has been the two hip operations that I've had. Being such a tender and hard to heal area, the second op in particular has given me a little bit of trouble. After the 2nd operation the surgeon advised me then, that the wisest thing to do would be to pack the game in then, but for the sake of my sanity I wanted to give it another half year to be totally sure in my own mind that it was the right course of action to take.
After the Glens game a few weeks ago (yes, one of the things I'll remember was the unfortunate miss of a penalty) but the other thing I'll remember is that after that game I struggled with my movement and everything else for 4 or 5 days afterwards. It flared up then and since then I really haven't been able to do anything. Thankfully, it's all settled down and there's no permanent damage. It's just been the little warning sign that I neededto say "right I've gone half a year longer than maybe I should have done and now is the time to quit while I'm ahead". Obviously, I don't want to have to go through another operation to have to live the rest of my life pain free. At the minute I am pain free and I know that if I finish now I will be pain free for the rest of my life without an operation. That's the deciding factor really for my decision.
Amother factor is that I have been so privileged to play for a club like Linfield and the club has been so loyal and good to me. I have been so well looked after but I said to DJ that unless I was 100% sure in my mind that I'd be able to play 30-40 games next season I wouldn't be re-signing as I wouldn't want to put that burden on the club. I feel that that there comes a stage where I have to be realistic about the situation. If I keep breaking down or if things keep going wrong I can't expect or ask the club to continue to carry me. As good as the club has been to me I don't want to put the club in the position of having to make a choice of whether it's worth retaining me in the hope I can turn in a few games. I'd rather take the choice out of the club's hands.
As for the future, when I suffered my first cruciate knee ligament injury, I got my coaching A licence. I've got all my badges in place. Obviously, I aspired to manage when I finished playing football. I obviously didn't expect it to be as early as this, but I have all the qualifications in place and I'll take stock now for a while. It's probably a matter of timing now more than anything else. I'll be looking for coaching or management jobs, as I feel that I have all the attributes and knowledge to go ahead and do that. That will probably or hopefully be the next step. There's not much point lying about mourning and feeling sorry for yourself as injury is a fact of life. I've accepted that and that's all there is to it. I'm ready to push on to the next chapter in my life.
In conclusion, I would just like to say that from the minute when I walked through the door here, I've been made to feel so welcome. So many memories. Yes, the medals have been great and I've taken so many away from this great club but even more than that, the memories I'll take away from here will live with me forever. Memories from so many match days and experiences and of course, cup finals. The most poignant memories especially, would be the games after I came back from injury. I vividly remember the reception I got on the first game back after the knee and hip operations and on the first game back this season. Even though you are going on to play a football match, I remember how the reception I got was so special and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Things like that I can take with me for the rest of my days. No medal can come close to those type of really personal memories. I'd just like to say thanks to everybody, all the players I played with, all the backroom staff and supporters and of course I wish everybody all the very best for the future."