Heart surgery forces Irish defender Mark O'Brien to retire at 27

“The club will be doing everything it can to support Mark at this difficult time.”
Heart surgery forces Irish defender Mark O'Brien to retire at 27

Newport County's Mark O'Brien celebrates beating his former club Leeds United in the 2017/18 Emirates FA Cup third round match at Rodney Parade. Photo: PA
Newport County's Mark O'Brien celebrates beating his former club Leeds United in the 2017/18 Emirates FA Cup third round match at Rodney Parade. Photo: PA

Newport captain Mark O’Brien has retired from football at the age of 27 as he requires heart surgery.

O’Brien, a former Republic of Ireland international who also played for Derby and Luton, scored four times in 127 appearances for the Exiles.

The Dublin-born defender netted the winning goal against Notts County in 2017 which helped Newport avoid relegation from League Two and retain their English Football League status.

A Newport statement read: “The club will be doing everything it can to support Mark at this difficult time.”

Speaking to the Daily Mail last year about a previous heart operation, O'Brien said: "I made my debut at the end of the 2008-09 season and after coming back for the new season we had these routine scans and they just said one day I had a faulty valve. The fitness coach had always said my heart rate was really high and I put two and two together and asked if it was down to the valve.

"I was taken to see the specialist and got told I wouldn't need an operation for 60 years. I then saw another specialist who did an MRI and said on a scale of 1-10, bleeding back into your heart is about seven. Suddenly alarm bells start.

"They were like, 'You might not need an op for 20 years but we need to keep an eye on it'. Then we were referred to a surgeon to get his opinion and we were in this tiny room — me, my parents, the physio and the surgeon — and he had a model heart in his hand.

"He said, 'Your heart is three times the size it should be and if you don't have this operation soon you'll die this year'.

"I'm like, 'OK, what was that now?' Oh my god. I'd gone in weeks from making my debut at 16, to needing surgery in the next two weeks or maybe dropping dead on the pitch. What does a kid do with information like that? My only question was could I still play after I had the surgery?"

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