Keith O’Hara is set to end his 20-year association with Portadown after failing to agree terms on a fresh contract.
The veteran defender and club captain felt he was “unable to accept” the offer placed on the table by officials and is now looking for a new Irish League club for the first time in his career.
“It has been an emotional time for me and the family and I am gutted to be leaving but felt unable to accept the deal presented by the club,” said O’Hara. “I do not want to say anything negative about the only club I have ever really known but now will be looking to start another chapter in my career.
“It seemed to me I was not in the plans of the club in the same way I felt I could contribute and, put simply, the offer made did not reflect what I consider my value.
“I still feel capable of producing as a Premiership player even and have had offers from other clubs in the Championship which would be better than what Portadown presented.
“I appreciate the financial circumstances have changed and accept there would be a pay cut but just could not agree the offer was suitable to reflect what I feel I can still bring to the table.”
O’Hara joined the Ports as a teenager from Lisburn Youth and, with the exception of a brief spell at Portadown-based Annagh United, has only represented the Shamrock Park outfit.
“It is a massive wrench to be leaving and I am gutted but aware it is about looking to the future now and the next chapter,” said O’Hara. “I wish the club every success in the future and know I have made lifelong friendships.
“I will always be grateful to Ronnie McFall for giving me that first chance to play in the Irish League and he has obviously been a massive influence on my career.
“In terms of players, the list is a long one, with names like Brian Strain, Philip Major, Gregg Davidson, Vinny Arkins, Peter McCann, David Miskelly, Mickey Collins, Gary Hamilton, Richard Clarke, Gary McCutcheon and Matthew Tipton just some of the great players and people.
“I have won the Irish League and Irish Cup and playing in Europe was an amazing experience, so there have been plenty of highlights to go along with the regrets over missing out on trophies.
“In terms of the future, I have been coaching a Portadown Youth side for the past six or seven seasons and will start my UEFA A Licence in a few weeks, so am open to all kinds of offers.
“I always start my own summer training early before pre-season as I know how to prepare and look after my body now at 36 years old.
“I have already started some running and still feel able to produce as a player.
“It is about the right club and the right opportunity, whether that is just as a player, as a player/coach, player/assistant manager or player/manager.
“I’m not ruling anything out but will take some time with the family to get a break before making any decision.
“It is going to be strange for sure walking into another club for pre-season but I have got to do what I feel is best for me and that means, unfortunately, leaving Portadown.”