MARK O'Brien won't lift the trophy if Newport County AFC win the League Two play-off final on Monday but promotion will mean just as much to the club great.

The defender led the Exiles out at Wembley for agonising defeat to Tranmere Rovers two years ago, a loss in which he was sent off in the 89th minute and then watched the 119th minute winner on television in the tunnel.

The Irishman won't get the chance to scratch the itch as a player but he is still very much part of the squad aiming to go one better.

O'Brien had to retire last summer because of a heart issue and has remained with County, helping as part of Michael Flynn's backroom team while plotting his next step in the game.

South Wales Argus:

"Promotion would mean loads to me because I still feel fully involved even though I can't be out there playing," said the 28-year-old, the scorer of the Great Escape goal in 2017.

"I've still been in the wings, talking to the lads and trying to help them. I am close as I can be to it all and everybody has made sure that I feel part of it.

"That support has been one of the main factors in me recovering so well and it would be the icing on the cake to go up.

"I'd love to see the lads lift the trophy after such a tough year with so much going on in my life."

O'Brien was sent off for two yellow cards against Tranmere, that after County had been denied a penalty when Jamille Matt was fouled in the box.

Naturally the former captain ponders what might have been but the memories aren't painful.

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"People can say it's bittersweet but it felt amazing to captain the side and walk out at Wembley after the journey we were on," he said.

"It wasn't quite our day and I still look back and wonder what might have been but I am still proud to have captained such a great bunch of lads at Wembley."

The debate about whether the class of 2021 is better than the 2019 would be lengthy and without a firm conclusion but O'Brien believes there is no question about one area that the current crop has the edge.

"The squad has a lot more depth and quality now," he said. "We still have a core of lads from two years ago who have been through the ups and downs but we have added to that with quality.

"Joss Labadie, Ryan Taylor, Nicky Maynard and Kevin Ellison came on at Forest Green – we didn't have that depth before. Everybody has played a part in the success this season."

County have evolved with a new style that sees them play on the deck and build from the back but some traits remain, according to the former defender.

"The lads still have that fight and determination to go to the 120th minute. The quality that we've got combined with that never-say-die attitude means that we are a tough outfit to come across," said O'Brien.

"Everyone has seen the new style of Newport this season but we still have that old style where the lads dig in until the end. That combination has hit all the right notes so far."

South Wales Argus:

O'Brien led a side featuring Mickey Demetriou, Josh Sheehan, Joss Labadie, Scot Bennett, Padraig Amond and Matty Dolan.

"It's a final and we have got experience of it now," said O'Brien. "We've got lads who have been to Wembley with Newport before, others who have tasted promotion.

"We have a good mix and it will be business time going into the game, I don't think that the occasion will overawe anybody on our side.

"We know that it is going to be a tough, difficult game against a determined Morecambe team but we just have to concentrate on how we can break them down."

After having to watch from the tunnel in 2019, O'Brien hopes that nerves will allow him to have a better view on Monday.

"I'd like to think I'll be in the dugout," he said. "Against Forest Green I was in the stands for 50 minutes of the game but had to walk away to the changing room because I am a bad watcher.

"When the stakes are high I'd rather be involved and control it, letting others be nervous for me.

"I want the lads to succeed so badly and found it difficult. Hopefully I'll be able to watch the full 90 at Wembley, but if not then I'll still be there to support the lads in one way or another."

And fingers crossed join in post-match celebrations.