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Mark O'Brien Explains How Open Heart Surgery At 16 Shaped His Career

Donny Mahoney
By Donny Mahoney
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There was terrible news from Wales yesterday that Irish defender Mark O'Brien had been forced to retire at the age of 27 because of heart issues. O'Brien had been a stalwart for Newport County and scored the goal - his first professional goal - that staved off relegation in 2017 following an incredible fightback from what seemed like certain relegation. It's said by many that the goal saved the club

O'Brien has spoken in detail about his heart condition to BBC Wales. He revealed that he had open heart surgery at age 16 and had been told by doctors throughout his career that at any stage he might have to hang up his boots because the game was too dangerous. Doctors inserted a pigskin valve in his heart, and though they never told O'Brien he couldn't play professional football, they were never overly optimistic either.


And yet O'Brien managed to have a successful career with Derby and Newport, where he'll forever be a club legend. He was philosophical and grounded speaking to the BBC

He said he has 'no regrets' and seemed proud of what he had achieved in his career.

"Ever since my operation it was always doctors telling me I might not play football professionally."

"Doctors were more cautious with me telling me they did not know if I was going to be able to make a career but they never told me 'no'.

"They basically left me to my own devices and told me you can give it as good as you've got and if you make it professionally brilliant and if not it was something that was expected.

"So year after year I always had to keep going back to the hospital and I just kept getting scans... and hope for another year of football. I only ever played football year to year because I never knew when the valve had gone faulty again.

"I have had time to think about it and I have been lucky in some aspects, in that I have got 10 years out of it. I have had some doctors shocked I was getting five years out of it... so yes I am gutted and didn't expect it to happen (now), but there was always going to be a time when it would happen."

He went on to add:

"I have made 10 years of it I can always look back on it and say I gave it a fair crack. I am happy with what I have done."

"It's just got to the stage where I have pushed this valve as far as it can go and it is what it is."

"There is nothing I could have done to have slowed it down, or lived any differently. It was out of my hands.

"That is why I can accept it. I was only able to do what my health allowed me. It has got me this far and I am proud of my career."



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