“WHEN you’re doing rehab every day on your own, there’s no worse feeling in the world. It’s the darkest place that you can ever be.”

So said Tadcaster Albion manager Mick O’Connell to Jorvik Radio as he reflects back on his career as a jockey.

O’Connell, who spent time at Darlington and Harrogate Railway before his move to the So Trak Stadium last summer, rode over 500 winners or placings, facing off against the likes of Frankie Dettori and AP McCoy until a serious back injury ended his racing career in 2013.

Those included riding horses owned by Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson, a disagreement with Joey Barton in Dubai, and even almost ended him up in hot water with some Newcastle gangsters after he refused to forfeit a race.

And he admits that it took some time to sink in that he would not ride competitively again.

“It was probably two years in maybe,” he said. “You’re always in denial and you’ve always got it in the back of your head that maybe you come back, and you’re working hard to get back.

“But it came to a point that it was no longer achievable.

“You end up getting yourself into dark places because you’re watching racing every day and you’re looking at horses winning that you should be riding.

“You’re in the gym every day doing rehab and that’s a very lonely place to be when you’re on your own. It’s just you and a physio every single day doing rehab.

“It really annoys me when you hear people giving up, or footballers that are always injured saying that they don’t want to play - this, that and the other. 

“When you’re doing rehab every day on your own, there’s no worse feeling in the world. It’s the darkest place that you can ever be.”

Before turning his hand to horse racing, the Irishman had spells with both Nottingham Forest and Scottish giants Celtic, where the idea of him becoming a jockey was first broached.

And despite having built up an injury list as long as his arm across his 16 years in the sport, it’s a career that he looks back upon fondly.

“I really enjoyed my time as a jockey,” he enthused. “That’s not a job, it’s a passion, and you go into work every day to do your passion - it’s a great way to make a living for sure.

“To be honest with you, we’d need a long interview to go through all the broken bones and the injuries that you pick up along the way! 

“But it’s part and parcel of the job. When you set up for it and start out as a 16-year-old , you know what you’re getting into and you know that it’s part of the job.

“There’s not many people that go out to work on a daily basis with ambulances following them around all day, so it’s certainly a tough job, but it’s a really good job.”

No course could eclipse the "top class" York Racecourse for O'Connell during his racing career, with the Tadcaster manager even choosing to get married at the venue.

But one aspect that seems better left forgotten is the strict 'jockey diet' that can see some consume less than 1,500 calories per day.

“That was the most difficult part of it," he explained. "If there’s one bad thing of the job, it’s that. It’s relentless, it’s every single day.

“It makes me laugh when you hear about all these boxers having to lose weight for a fight, and they fight three times a year.

“As a jockey, it’s 365 days a year, it’s every single day, it’s relentless. You’re losing half a stone every day, I’ve took a stone off in a day before. 

“It’s a really difficult part of the job, but again it’s part and parcel of the job. You know what you’re getting into.

“It’s one of them scenarios where you don’t really know any different at the time, it’s only when you get out of it that you realise how difficult it is."