It’s almost a decade since Stephen O’Halloran made his international bow for The Republic of Ireland. Still only 28, with a touch more fortune the central defender could have been part of Martin O’Neil’s squad at this year’s European Championships.

That ship has long since sailed though, predominantly due to a series of catastrophic knee injuries. So instead the defender from Cobh was putting the finishing touches to a degree in Physiotherapy at The University of Salford, alongside half a dozen other PFA members.

It is a path he hardly expected to be on when as a youngster at Aston Villa, he was called up by the then Eire boss Steve Staunton to face Ecuador and Bolivia in the summer 2007.

“Not really because when I was at Aston Villa I was doing really well then unfortunately I had a bad injury to my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which I then reinjured when I was on loan at Swansea,” he said.

“I was out for fifteen months after that so I had some hard times that have actually helped me understand the patient side of things in terms of starting the mental and physical recovery process.

“I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to get to the age of 35 and be thinking ‘what am I going to do’ and luckily the PFA were able to help me out.

“I made the decision about four years ago that I didn’t want to be going from club to club without anything to back me up. I was about to sign for Nuneaton in the National League when I got onto the course with the help of Oshor Williams at The PFA and I moved to Manchester then the following season joining Stockport. I had two good years there before moving on to Salford City.”

Last term O’Halloran was part of The Ammies promotion winning and FA Cup giant-killing squad that has attracted consistent media attention since it was backed by the Manchester United Class of 92, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs and Peter Lim, the owner of Valencia CF.

And while he is hoping for big things again this season, albeit in the “tough” National League North his football will run alongside his main occupation in The National Health Service.

“I’ve just got a job in the NHS, so I’m really pleased about that,” he continued.

“I’ve worked a lot in the NHS (on placement) which was a great experience. Every day you see different people, young and old and a range of different diseases and injuries and it is experience that is invaluable.”