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O'Kelly keen to soldier on

LEINSTER legend Malcolm O'Kelly has refused to rule out playing on after the end of the current season writes Donnchadh Boyle.

O'Kelly, who turns 36 this summer, insists he will only leave the game when he stops enjoying it.

"It's an ongoing battle, I'm not going to lie to you. I love the comforts of home, but this is just such a great environment at the moment. The atmosphere in the squad is absolutely fantastic, even when you're going out training in that sh**e!

"I haven't made a decision yet. I'm still only 35. I was talking to Danny Grewcock recently, and he is considering playing on another year, and he is 38. It's hard to know. It's a personal thing, and you can't look at one player and say, 'Oh then Mal will stay on another three years'.

"It's (a decision) I'll make with Leinster. I'm unlikely to go off and play elsewhere. We have a strong squad and it's not easy to get into the team. Whether or not there will be a place for me next year is a different matter."

Little is known about what impact a professional rugby career has on players in later life, but O'Kelly isn't overly concerned.

"The main thing with injuries is that I've had the proper rehab and the recovery. I don't see it as being a major thing. I'm sure I'll have a certain amount of issues, but I'm not planning on running marathons or doing triathlons.

Like Roy Keane did towards the end of his playing days, the giant lock has turned to yoga to prolong his career while the Leinster coaches have also helped him manage his injuries.

"The coaches will make allowances. Our strength and conditioning guy, if I say to him, 'My knees are in bits today, I just can't do it', he'll say, 'Get into the pool'.

"There are certain allowances they will make. You get so many knocks, and the engine has been going for a long time, so sometimes you need a breather.

"You value these times. You value the friendships you make with the guys in the squad, and I would hate the thought of losing that. And you do. Once you leave, the guys are too busy, too engrossed in what they are doing. I don't want to finish."

Irish Independent