Connacht Rugby regret to confirm that their scrum half Conor O’Loughlin is set to retire from rugby due to a hip injury.
Conor O’Loughlin has been troubled by a hip injury that has curtailed his involvement with the province this season.
The 28-year-old scrum half was part of Michael Bradley’s 2002/03 Ireland Under-21 team alongside current Connacht team-mates John Muldoon and Keith Matthews. He was awarded his first Connacht contract following the Under-21 World Championship.
“I was studying Business Information Systems in Cork when Brads (Michael Bradley) called me and offered me a full-time contract so I jumped at the opportunity. I transferred the course to NUIG and finished it here in Galway,” explained O’Loughlin.
His first game for Connacht was against London Irish in August 2003 and he scored his first try later that week against a star-studded Munster team that boasted the likes of Keith Wood, Paul O’Connell and Peter Stringer.
His first competitive game was against the Cardiff Blues, playing alongside Eric Elwood, Michael Swift and Tim Allnutt and he went on to earn 22 caps that season.
A shoulder injury sustained against Montpellier sidelined the Athlone-man for a number of months in 2004 but he recovered well and consistent form and regular game-time with Connacht earned him a cap for Ireland ‘A’ against England Saxons.
“I’ve played in some great matches over the years, playing Harlequins at the Sportsground in the Challenge Cup in 2004 was special. That was my first time playing in front of such a huge home crowd and the atmosphere was amazing.
Representing my country when playing for Ireland ‘A’ was another proud occasion for me,” added O’Loughlin, who is one of Connacht’s longest serving players with 97 caps to his name.
“Growing up in Connacht, playing underage, you have a lot of loyalty to the province and over the years you grow more and more attached to it.
“Working with Brads was great, he really helped develop my game and was probably the biggest influence during my rugby career.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years here; the camaraderie in the squad is fantastic and Eric (Elwood) and his management team are doing some great work with the lads and they’re definitely going places.”
O’Loughlin sustained an injury to his hip in a game against Montpellier in December 2006 and consequently his hip has deteriorated to a point where he can no longer play rugby.
“I’ve exhausted every medical avenue at this stage and I’ve been advised that I can no longer continue my career as a professional rugby player.
“It’s taken me a while to get my head around it but everyone’s been really helpful and supportive, especially my family and friends, and I’m very grateful to them for that.
“Rugby’s been my life for the last eight years so I’m going to have to look at my options now. I’ve completed a Masters of Finance, my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Level 1 exam and I’m sitting the Level 2 in June so there are options there for me in a role outside of rugby.
“I’ve no regrets at all. I’ve been living the dream for the last eight years and I’m sure I’ll come back to it at some stage in some form or another but for now I’m looking forward to the challenge of something different.”
Commenting on O’Loughlin’s retirement, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood said: “We’re all very disappointed that Conor can no longer play, he’s been a great servant to Connacht Rugby over the years and will be a massive loss to the province.
“The manner in which Conor has dealt with his injury is remarkable and it is a huge shame that Connacht are losing a homegrown player of his talents.
“Conor has shown great loyalty to Connacht and it’s sad to see such a successful career cut short by injury.
“I’m confident he will excel at whatever he moves onto and we wish him the very best of luck in his future endeavours. The door will always be open for him to return to us in some capacity.”