Limerick’s Shane Dowling has been forced to retire from inter-county hurling through injury at the age of 27.
The 2018 All-Ireland SHC winner, whose goals in the All-Ireland semi-final and final helped steer the county to glory, made the announcement on Twitter this morning.
Prior to the lockdown, Na Piarsaigh man Dowling’s 2020 season had been in jeopardy due to a cartilage problem. However, a recent scope of his right knee revealed further damage that has compelled him to come to this decision.
Dowling, who hopes to play for Na Piarsaigh again with whom he has claimed an All-Ireland in 2016 as well five Limerick SHC titles and four Munster crowns, is the youngest Limerick hurler to retire since Andrew O’Shaughnessy (26) in 2011.
In a statement released online this morning, he wrote: "It is with deep regret and heartbreak that I have to announce my retirement from inter-county hurling today. This is a decision that I have struggled to accept, and may still struggle to accept over the coming year, given its premature nature.
"To be speaking about retirement from the game I adore, at the age of 27, is not what I ever intended or imagined, and I still hardly believe this is happening, but unfortunately I have been left with no other option.
"After three surgeries on my knee in as many years, and with the possibility of another, my knee can no longer support the demands of inter-county hurling.
"There are a number of people in my life that I owe serious gratitude to, and I would like to take this opportunity now to acknowledge them. To my parents, Paddy and Joan, my sister Fiona and to my girlfriend Paula, I would like to sincerely thank you for putting up with everything over the years, and for always being there by my side through the ups and the downs.
"To three managers who afforded me the opportunity to play senior hurling for Limerick, and allow me achieve my childhood dream, I will forever be indebted to you. I will never forget the day John Allen made those dreams come true, when he rang me in October of 2012, and gave me the news that I always wanted to hear.
"Furthermore on from that, TJ Ryan gave his heart to the job as manager, as he did previously as a player, before John Kiely was the man who led us to the holy grail on the famous day of August 19, 2019. To those three inspirational men, thank you very much.
"To all county board officials, past and present, current chairman John Cregan, and in particular to long serving secretary Mike O'Riordan who has been extremely good to me down through the years, thank you all so much for your help and guidance.
"To JP, Noree and all the McManus family, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks for all your continued support over the years. For me, someone's character is shown when they stick with you through the bad times, as well as the good, and down through the years, the McManus family never gave up on Limerick hurling, and have always gone above and beyond for us.
"To all coaches, selectors, and all other various members of backroom teams over the years, of which there are too many to name-check individually, I wish to thank you all so much for everything you have given to Limerick hurling, and I know you will continue to do so for many years to come."
Dowling also thanked the Treaty County fans. "To the Limerick supporters, you are just one of a kind. You represent everything that epitomises Limerick hurling — honest, driven, passionate and hungry for success. Your value to Limerick hurler can never be underestimated. Supporters have been very good to me throughout my hurling career, and I will never ever forget that.
"The success and guidance I experienced from a young age with my primary school Scoil Chríoist Rí Caherdavin and later in my secondary school Ardscoil Rís was, no doubt, instrumental to the successes in my career. To all the teachers who helped along the way, again, I will forever be grateful.
"The opportunity to represent Limerick would never have been possible without my club Na Piarsaigh. Once again, there are too many people to individually mention, but the countless hours of time, commitment and, most importantly, care you give to all players and members is inspirational. Please keep this to the forefront of everything you do because I will never forget what you did for me as a child growing up."
Dowling paid special tribute to his former colleagues. "To all my team-mates over the years, I can't thank you enough for the pleasure of playing with you and the bonds that we have created. While it goes without saying that I will hugely miss hurling with you, I will equally miss the craic that we had off the pitch. Please don't ever take for granted each day that you have an opportunity to tie the laces on your boots because God knows when it could be your last time.
"As I close this chapter of my life, which is heartbreaking for me, I am going to try and look at the positives, and fortunately for me there are a lot of them. I have fulfilled my dreams, which was above and beyond what I ever thought was possible. I have no doubt that my obsession with the game of hurling will continue in different capacities in the months and years to come.
"If someone told me that July of 2019 would be the last time I would wear the green and white of Limerick I would have said they were mad. But there you go, that's life, that's sport, so nail it, every chance you get."