Injury brings curtain down on Lennon's Farney career
Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30
Monaghan's 2013 Ulster title-winning captain Owen Lennon has been forced to retire from inter-county football.
Lennon, the first man from his county to lift the Anglo-Celt Cup for 25 years on a memorable day in Clones, has had to succumb to an ongoing ankle problem that surfaced in the 2014 Division 2 league win over Donegal.
"I was advised that my ankle has had enough trauma. It's time to leave it," said the midfielder who will be 35 later this month.
Ironically, Lennon, who plays his club football with Latton O'Rahillys, had overcome a back problem that threatened his career a number of years ago and brought him on a treatment trail that eventually took him to Lilleshall, the former FA Academy which houses the National Sports Centre in the UK.
"I got over my back problems 100 per cent," he recalled. "I had an ankle operation then in 2014. I got back after that but it hasn't been right ever since. I was at about 80 or 90 per cent last year."
Lennon admitted he almost retired in 2013 because of the pain of losing to Tyrone in an All-Ireland quarter-final.
"It had been on my mind. As the years go on, we won the Ulster Championship and then we were beaten by Tyrone the following day out. I found that the older you get the harder the defeats are to make. I was just so down for a couple of months. I said I don't want any more weeks like this. But there was a good team there. I was captain. I felt I would be walking out on them, letting them down a bit."
Lennon was a hugely consistent, popular and influential figure and missed just one championship match from his debut against Fermanagh in 2002 to 2014 when injury struck.
Getting a second Ulster title last summer was a real bonus, he admitted, and answered any doubts about 2013.
"That was a motivation because the team and all within felt that we didn't get the credit we maybe deserved. The only way you get that credit is to repeat it again.
"We were lucky that we had a great group of players that were well motivated and then had a good management team."
"It was a bittersweet feeling. I was down a bit that I have to leave but I'm thankful that I got the last four or five years out of it.
"That leaves it difficult to walk away. We had a lot of barren days together. That makes it harder leaving a good team. You live for the championship days."
Lennon, a Sigerson Cup winner with DCU, has thanked his wife Oonagh and all his former teachers and club, county and college coaches for their support during his Monaghan career.