Ian Murray freed, Garry O’Connor on way as Hibs exodus begins

THE expected player exodus from Hibernian began yesterday, when it was confirmed that Ian Murray had left the club at the end of his testimonial season.

Also set to depart for pastures new is Garry O’Connor, whose next move is complicated by an appointment tomorrow morning at Haddington Sheriff Court, where he is due to stand trial on a £93,500 fraud charge after a crash involving the player’s Ferrari F430 Spider F1. O’Connor was substituted early in the second half of Saturday’s 5-1 defeat to Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but scored 16 goals this season for the club he re-joined on a one-year contract in June last year. O’Connor, 29, is due to sit down with manager Pat Fenlon this morning, when it is expected a severing of ties will be formalised.

Murray, meanwhile, has also left after a second spell at the club he supported as a boy. He has suffered an injury-interrupted season and was not included in last weekend’s cup final squad. He has made more than 260 appearances for Hibs in total, having signed for the club as a teenager. Murray’s last start came in the final league game of the season at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He celebrated his testimonial year with a match against a team of Hibs legends, while Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires made guest appearances for the present day Hibs side. Murray still has a gala dinner to come in July. “I’d probably say the injury played a part,” said the versatile Murray, who has struggled with a long-running hip complaint this season. “I haven’t played more than 13 games this season, so I can fully understand why it has happened. In saying that, I’m fully confident that everything has cleared up and I’ll be in good shape for next season. I had ten great years over two spells [at Hibs] and I’m just disappointed I didn’t win any trophies over that time.

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“I don’t know what’s next for me. I get my last pay cheque next week then I am unemployed for the first time in my career. I think being able to fill in a few different positions could help me. I have always fancied playing outside the UK but I have lots to consider with a young family. It could be the right time for me to live and learn from a different culture.”

Murray left Hibs for a first time in 2006, signing for Rangers as a free agent. He remained at Ibrox for two years. However, Murray’s stay there was also disrupted by injury and illness, as was a subsequent spell with Norwich City. Still only 31, he says he bears no ill-will towards Fenlon, and can understand why a new contract offer from the club was not been forthcoming.

“I want to thank everyone for their support, especially this season with my testimonial. I’ve loved my time at Hibernian,” he said, in a statement on the club’s official website. Fenlon paid tribute to Murray, who only managed to play four games under the current manager. “I’d like to thank ‘Nid’ for his dedication,” said Fenlon. “He’s been a great pro for Hibernian. It’s been unfortunate he hasn’t played a lot since I’ve been here due to injury, but it’s still been great for me to have him around the place. We wish him all the best.”

Striker Leigh Griffiths and James McPake, who captained the side in the defeat to Hearts at the weekend, will return to their parent clubs, Wolves and Coventry City respectively, after loan spells.