EXCLUSIVE: Kilbane out of Euros and forced to contemplate retirement
Kevin Kilbane is out of the Euro 2012 Finals after the Republic of Ireland veteran was forced to have a back operation which has ruled him out for the rest of the season.
The left-back, who is one of three members of Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad to reach a century of caps, faces months of agonising rehabilitation in a bid to play again.
And Kilbane, who set a new Irish record for successive competitive international matches before suffering the back injury in September, has accepted that his dream of making the Ireland squad for the European Championship Finals in Poland and Ukraine is over.
End of the road Kevin Kilbane will be out of action for the rest of the season
Kilbane said: 'I am devastated but pleased that the operation this week seems to have been a success.
'I didn’t hold out much hope of making the squad anyway if I am honest after missing out on the last couple of squads through injury but obviously I was still hoping that I would be in contention and would be able to put a string of performances together at club level to give the manager something to think about.
'I wish I could have gone obviously. We have waited a long time to get back into a major finals and I am sorry I won’t be with the lads.
Making his mark: Kilbane has been capped 110 times by the Republic of Ireland
'But my health is more important and I have been in agony for months and needed to get it sorted.'
Kilbane suffered the original injury at the start of this season during an Ireland training session in preparation for the Euro qualifiers at home to Slovakia and away to Russia.
When he withdrew from the squad, losing his place to Wolves’ Stephen Ward, it was the first competitive match for Ireland he had failed to start since the Euro 2000 qualifying play-off in Turkey, a run of 66 games. That is a run bettered only by England’s Billy Wright.
To Hull and back: Kilbane is back at the KC Stadium after a loan spell at Derby but his contract is up in the summer
The 34-year-old, who has spent most of the season on loan at Derby County, tried to play on after pain-killing injections but was urged to have surgery after a rest over the Christmas period with his family.
And he knew he had made the right decision after a routine incident with eldest daughter Elsie triggered real concerns.
'I came in to the house one day,’ he said. 'And Elsie jumped round my waist and latched on to me and I was in absolute agony. The pain was unbearable and I just thought “I can’t even have a laugh and mess around with my kids”.
Premier past: Kilbane played in the top flight for Sunderland, Everton and Wigan
'I had two lots of epidural injections before Christmas which didn’t really seem to make much difference so I had a word with the physio at Hull and we made the decision to go for the operation, and I am delighted I did.
'I have two pro-lapsed discs and the muscles were wrapped round nerves and all sorts. It seems it was in quite a mess but hopefully it is all sorted now. It certainly feels better already.
'I will rest for a few days, and I have some little exercises to do and then it is just a case of weeks and months of rehab and bike work, which promises to be lots of fun.’
Euro bound: Giovanni Trapattoni won't be able to call on the services of Kilbane for the tournament
And inevitably the former Preston, West Brom, Sunderland, Everton, Wigan and Huddersfield stalwart, who is out of contract at Hull at the end of the season, has now had to ponder retirement and a future without playing.
But he added: 'Yeah, of course it has crossed my mind but we will just have to see how it goes. My first thought is to get fit, get playing again and give it a really good go. I’m just gutted that it won’t be in time to be fit for the end of the season, and maybe given Mr Trapattoni something to think about.'