Irish footballer Mark O'Brien on his eventful career after retirement aged 27

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Irish Footballer Mark O'brien On His Eventful Career After Retirement Aged 27 Irish Footballer Mark O'brien On His Eventful Career After Retirement Aged 27
Mark O'Brien after an FA Cup victory with Newport County.
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James Cox

Irish footballer Mark O'Brien retired in the summer aged 27 but he still managed to pack plenty of action into his shortened career.

After recovering from a heart operation at the age of 16, O'Brien was warned that he may never play again.

Five months after his debut for Derby County, a routine scan revealed issues and he was warned by a heart surgeon that he may only have a year to live without immediate surgery.

Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton (right) battles for the ball with Newport County's Mark O'Brien (second left)

Speaking on The Irishman, Englishman and Scotsman podcast, he said: “He turned around and basically said to me: 'If you don't get this operation done soon, you're looking at dying this year'.

“My only question to him was: 'Will I still be able to play football?'.

“He said to me, you've a slight chance of playing, but don't be disheartened if you never play again — getting back to a professional standard — I don't think that'll be able to happen.

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“I always had it in my head that the doctors gave me a small glimmer of hope that everything can go well and I can get back playing again. But looking back on it now, I had everything against me to say that I'll never play professionally again.

“I look back on it now and see that I've had to retire at 27, I look back on it now in a positive way to say that they never gave me a chance at playing professionally at all.”

After leaving Derby, O'Brien went on to play for Motherwell, Luton Town and Southport. However, he enjoyed the most success with Newport County.

O'Brien made over 100 appearances for the club and featured in FA Cup runs that saw Newport face Manchester City and Leicester City.

O'Brien also scored the goal that saved Newport from Football League relegation in 2017.

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Speaking about his retirement, O'Brien said: “I burst into tears, it was something I had expected and knew was going to come, but I was never fully prepared for it because I was always living on the dream.

“I was more upset because I knew what I had to go through in the physical side, the mental side, but I underestimated how much it was mentally going to affect me.”

O'Brien spoke to a counsellor to come to terms with the end of his playing career, while he said things are looking up for him now, and he's still doing bits of work with Newport to keep busy.

“It's the beginning of something new and I can progress on and fulfil different things and not hopefully have an operation hanging over me like I've had for ten years.

“I'm starting to see a brighter side to it than I have over the last couple of months.”

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