NOT even an 11th hour call from Kerry boss Jack O’Connor last week could persuade Tom O’Sullivan to change his mind over his inter-county retirement.
“I was talking to Jack late last week. He was asking if there was any way that he could twist my arm. But I said it was the finish, there would be no twisting the arm this year. He probably twisted my arm for the last three years,” O’Sullivan said.
“Jack felt it would take me only three weeks to get fit if I put my mind to it. I agreed. But the hunger just wasn’t there. I told him it was time to call it a day. I have enough given, and it’s time to let the young lads step up now.”
Regarded as one of the finest corner-backs of the last decade O’Sullivan — who played in 10 All-Ireland finals since he made his Kerry senior debut back in 2000 — admits that he always knew that last season was his final campaign in the green and gold.
“I always said 2011 was going to be my last year. It would have been nice to go out on a high but it wasn’t meant to be. I found it difficult last year to get back into training. I went back later than in most years, the older you get the harder it gets. The older you get you should be going back to training even earlier, not later,” O’Sullivan said.
“It (retiring) wasn’t a difficult decision. I just felt I have enough of it played. I was inside with the Kerry seniors back in ‘98, training with them in ‘99 and I made the team then in 2000, and I am playing since then.
“I couldn’t look back on my career and say that I have any regrets because I don’t. I probably won everything that the game has to offer. I was very lucky in the sense. That’s why walking away was easy for me. It’s time to move on.
“I didn’t have much interest in announcing it. I was planning on walking away and letting it at that. I didn’t want any reports in the papers. But last week it came out, not how I wanted it to, but that’s just the way it turned out. I would have preferred to slip off into the sunset.”
And O’Sullivan is adamant that even in the height of this summer’s championship he won’t have any regrets over his decision to retire. “Maybe watching the bigger games I might miss it but I doubt it because I have enough of it played not to miss it. I am hoping it works out that way.”
Still lining out his club Rathmore, the Moyvane-based Garda has no intentions of hanging his boots for good.
“I started my career with the club and I will finish it with the club, how long that will go I don’t know.
“It doesn’t get any easier. I am only back getting fit now with the club. It was hard going last year after the All-Ireland because I was going with the club right up to January, training all over Christmas. I just think I hit a brick wall.”
“A lot of players have gone but a lot have come in too. Kerry don’t seem to be winning much underage but we still seem to pick out two or three individual players from the under-21s and the minors. In any one year you have maybe only one senior player retiring so all you need is one new player coming on the scene,” he said.
“There are certainly two or three good young backs in there and a few good young forwards.
“There are two or three more there moving closer to retiring. If Kerry won the All-Ireland, one or two might go. But then one or two will come in, that’s just the way it is in Kerry.”
* Galway manager Alan Mulholland has handed Kieran McGrath and Keith Kelly their championship debuts for Sunday's Connacht quarter-final against Roscommon.
GALWAY (SF v Roscommon): A Faherty; K McGrath, F Hanley, K Kelly; G Bradshaw, J Duane, G O'Donnell; J Bergin, G Higgins; G Sice, D Burke, T Flynn; S Armstrong, P Conroy, M Hehir.
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