BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Jon Daly insists he welcomed the chance to hang up his boots on his own terms, despite calling time on his injury-afflicted playing days earlier than expected to begin work as Hearts youth coach yesterday.
The striker was watched by family from his homeland in Ireland at the weekend as he brought the curtain down on a career that reached its peak with the joy of the 2010 Scottish Cup triumph with Dundee United.
The final outing for the Dubliner, who turned 33, failed to go as smoothly, with his daydreams of a last-match goal not coming to fruition and Raith Rovers’ failure to defeat Hibernian leading to him joking he would join Hearts yesterday with an instant need to apologise.
However, the former Republic of Ireland under-21 cap, who began his senior career nearly two decades ago as an apprentice with Stockport County, is already now keen to prove himself all over again as a coach with Hearts’ under-20s.
Asked about his emotions at retiring as a player, he said: “It’s one of those, it comes to every player. I’m fortunate I’ve got the opportunity to finish on my terms and I’ve not had my career taken away by injury.
“There were obviously a few points throughout my career when I thought that might have happened. But I’m glad I’m finishing off playing in one piece.
“I’ve enjoyed my career. I’m very privileged to have played for so long, I’ve been involved at a professional level for 17 and a half years.
“So, to do that is a remarkable achievement. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved throughout my career.
“I wouldn’t say I’m an unbelievable player but I’ve certainly been a team player and hopefully I can carry that on into the coaching side.
“It’s something I’m really looking forward to getting involved in. There’s a good bunch of boys at Hearts at that age and I’m just looking forward to getting involved.
“Until I spoke to (Hearts director of football) Craig (Levein), I had planned to play for a few more years.
“But the opportunity to finish playing still in one piece and still feeling quite fresh, and the opportunity to go in to a club that’s on the up and has some great people behind the scenes, is not something I could turn down.
“I’m very fortunate and very grateful that I have that opportunity.”
Daly also played for Hartlepool and Rangers, as well as loan spells with Bury and Grimsby, but it is unsurprising he cites his near-seven-year spell with Dundee United, where he played over 200 games and scored 72 times, as his most enjoyable.
And he picks out the 2010 Scottish Cup final success against Ross County as the moment he will never forget.
There remains the sense, however, that the Irishman is already well down the road to moving on mentally towards building a coaching career.
He added: “Probably winning the Scottish Cup with Dundee United in 2010 was the most enjoyable moment in my career.
“I’ve still got great memories of that. I’ve still got the medal framed, it’s pride of place in the house, and that will stay there as well.
“It’s great to look back and have good memories.
“Every player will tell you they’ve got highs and lows, and it’s about how you mentally deal with the lows to help you get through it.
“I’ll go in to Hearts and see how I get on coaching. There’s a lot of learning to be done, it will be my first experience of it so it’s going to take time to get used to it.
“I’m very fortunate to be going in to a good level, with good players and it’s something I’m just fully focused on, to try and do the best I can do for the lads and to try and help them as much as I can.”