Former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn hailed Tony Browne as a “special individual” following the 40-year-old’s retirement from inter-county hurling last night.
Browne’s decision to retire brings to an end a 23-year career in the blue and white shirt that yielded four Munster medals, one National League title, three All-Stars and the 1998 Hurler of the Year award.
Browne’s inter-county debut arrived against Galway in the 1991 National League and the right half-back has been a permanent fixture in the Waterford line-up ever since.
In a statement released last night, Browne said he had “enjoyed every moment wearing the Waterford jersey” and was immensely proud “in knowing I have given my all to Waterford hurling”.
Browne was not part of Waterford’s league endeavours this spring and speculation had been rife that the Mount Sion man would not again be seen in the Déise colours. Last July’s extra-time qualifier defeat to Kilkenny proved his last outing at inter-county level and Flynn said his brief cameo was typical Tony Browne, “dedicated and unflinching”.
Browne’s statement continued: “To retire is always a tough decision for any athlete but I know I have been blessed in so many ways to have experienced what I have with the Waterford hurling teams over the past three decades.”
“I have loved and embraced every moment wearing the Waterford jersey from my earliest days. However, I know the time is now right for me to bring the curtain down on my county career. It is now time for others to enjoy and cherish the same honour and pride that I felt over the past 23 years representing Waterford.” Flynn, who soldiered alongside Browne for 15 years, said his unmatched reading of the game sustained him as one of the finest stickmen in the country across three decades.
Flynn also paid homage to Browne’s ability to adapt to hurling’s ever changing face.
“To stay going as long as he did and to be as strong and competitive as he was took a special individual. Tony Browne is a special individual.
“It was Tony’s dedication that sustained him over the 23-years. It is hugely admirable that he stayed going for as long as he did. Tony always adapted with the game. You see the retirement age lowering all the time, but because Tony adapted with the game he was able to stay going and stay competitive. He was never a passenger. Sometimes you felt he was carrying you.
“His reading of the game was immense. I have seen very few players to read a game as well as he did. That is what allowed him to stay going, that is what made him so difficult to mark.”
Flynn described Browne as an unassuming figure inside the whitewash who always allowed his hurling do the talking. And while Browne has decided to part company with the inter-county scene, his eight-point contribution from centre-forward during a club fixture last week suggests there is plenty still left in the tank.
“In a club game there last week he hit eight points. That says it all really about him.
“It was always great reassurance to have him on the pitch.”
Asked for one defining memory, Flynn returns to 1999 and the week prior to the Munster quarter-final meeting with Limerick. Browne suffered ligament damage in his ankle four days out from throw-in, but refused to be sidelined. Waterford would win the game by the minimum, Browne, as ever, a central figure.
“On the Thursday beforehand he went over on his ankle. It ballooned up. It was ligament damage. It was only supposed to be a brief meeting to limber up ahead of the game and Tony came out with a serious injury. There wasn’t a word out of him. He went out on the Sunday and played the 70 minutes and gave a fantastic performance.
“That was Tony Browne, always putting the team first. Of course he was out for six or seven weeks because of it but he didn’t mind. He had served Waterford and that’s what he loved doing.”
In his parting statement, Browne also thanked the many coaches and managers he had worked under, paying particular tribute to his native Mount Sion.
“I would like to thank my club Mount Sion and my club colleagues for their support and guidance in helping me fulfil my potential as a hurler and as a person. The backing of my club enabled me to compete at the very highest level and follow my dreams.
“It goes without saying the Waterford supporters are amongst the greatest in the GAA.
“I personally want to thank you for everything all through the years.
“I will cherish those cheers and your support for all time.”
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