By Paul Keane
Declan O'Sullivan has revealed how his battered knees ultimately forced him to call time on his Kerry football career.
The 30-year old gave a strong performance in July's Munster final win over Cork, a display of play making that manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice today described as "one of the great performances".
But the Dromid Pearses club man battled ongoing knee issues which Fitzmaurice revealed "deteriorated as the summer went on".
O'Sullivan still featured in the All-Ireland final win over Donegal as a 57th minute substitute and collected his fifth winners' medal afterwards.
It proved to be his last of 70 Championship appearances for Kerry over a senior career that began in 2003 and climaxed with back to back All-Ireland wins as captain in 2006 and 2007.
"Unfortunately, due to some long standing injuries, it would be impossible for me to physically compete at the required level in 2015," accepted O'Sullivan. "Hopefully, after a long rest and some corrective work on my knees, I will be able to enjoy playing with my club for a number of years to come."
O'Sullivan, 31, next month played under four Kerry managers at senior level though arguably forged the closest bond with Jack O'Connor, his club mate and manager for the 2004 and 2006 wins.
"His retirement comes as a surprise to me," admitted O'Connor, who described O'Sullivan as 'one of the great Kerry forwards of all time - there's no question about that'.
O'Sullivan's low point as a Kerry player came in 2006 when he was criticised by supporters for poor form though he bounced back to skipper an All-Ireland final win over Mayo that season.
"The way he handled himself in 2006 after losing his place on the team, the resilience he showed and the resolve to get back on the team and go on to lift the Sam Maguire was testament to his mental strength," said O'Connor.
O'Sullivan is one of just eight players ever to have captained their county to All-Ireland wins more than once.
"Declan played 128 senior games for Kerry, scoring a massive 16 goals and 139 points in the process and he had of course the rare and unique honour of captaining the Kingdom in back to back Sam Maguire triumphs, a feat that Kerry GAA folk are unlikely to forget," said Kerry GAA chairman Patrick O'Sullivan.
His departure robs manager Fitzmaurice of another option in attack for the upcoming Allianz football league. Colm Cooper is still several months away from a return to full action while Player of the Year James O'Donoghue could miss the entire campaign following shoulder surgery.