The 26-year old three-time All-Ireland medallist informed managed Jim Gavin in late December that he and his girlfriend have secured 12-month visas to travel and work in New Zealand and that he won’t be available at all in 2016.
The assumption was that the current AllStar full-back would return in 2017 and slot back into the panel, similar to his seamless transitions after previous extended breaks away in 2009 and 2011.
But the powerful O’Carroll, who has remarkably started all but one of Dublin’s 36 championship games since nailing down the number three jersey in 2010, has made it clear that he isn’t working to a timeframe and, possibly, may not play pull on the blue jersey again.
“I don’t believe in retiring as such,” said O’Carroll. “What I have said to Jim is that I asked him not consider me for selection for the 2016 season. That could last forever and I might never play for Dublin again but I don’t like to put any limits or titles on things. I’m open to the idea I could play again and I’m open to the idea I may never play again. I’ll see how it goes. I’m not too worried about what is down the line.”
O’Carroll made his Dublin debut in 2009 but shortly after left the panel to travel with friends. He also spent an extended period studying in France and missed the 2011 league though, in championship terms, he has been Dublin’s first choice full-back since 2010. In that period, he has been arguably the best full-back in the country and was remarkably nominated for an All Star each year.
O’Carroll said that increasing his All-Ireland medals collection isn’t a major motivation and humbly maintained that if Dublin do lose games during his absence then, it won’t be because he’s not there. He also clarified that his decision to leave is not a reaction to the huge demands placed on elite GAA players in the modern era.
“I’m not stepping away because of the demands of it,” said O’Carroll at the launch of the adidas and LifeStyle Sports Boost run.
“Obviously they are high demands and I was a student for a lot of it so that helped and when you’re working it is a lot harder but nobody forces you to go training. You’re not under any contract or anything like that so it’s up to yourself if you want to commit and give that commitment or not and most players would say they enjoy it.
“So no, it’s not because of that. I would have just stopped playing in that case as opposed to leaving the country. That would have been an extreme way to get away!”
O’Carroll shrugged when it was suggested that Dublin’s fans will be distraught to think he may never play again.
“I’m sure they’ll get over it,” he said.
The six foot one inch defender believes that he is ultimately making the decision which will leave him with least regrets.
“I suppose we made the decision in December, well, we finalised it on Stephen’s Day, to be more specific. I’m going with my girlfriend and she always wanted to go. There’s always been a part of me that wanted to go and no matter what you do, you’re always going to have some regrets regardless, no matter what decision you make.
“You just try to pick the one decision where you have fewest regrets. That was the one I was left with. Jim was really nice. He said that as long as he was manager, then I was always welcome back for a trial or whatever in the future.
“It probably did make it easier that we got the All-Ireland last year. But I probably would have gone away anyway, to be honest, given my age. But it did make the decision easier.”