TIPPERARY defender Declan Fanning last night announced his retirement from intercounty hurling.
The 31-year-old Killenaule player was a member of this years All-Ireland winning team, lining out at wing back in their historic final triumph over Kilkenny.
In a statement, Fanning didn’t specify his reasoning for calling time on his career but he eluded to intercounty hurling “requiring lots of sacrifices, particularly from players families.”
He said it was a “huge privilege to be a member of this great Tipperary hurling panel.
“I have never worked with a more committed management team or group of players.”
He added; “I am very grateful to Liam Sheedy and his management and backroom team for all the encouragement and support they gave me.
“I want to thank all the players. We worked hard together but we also had great fun and I shall miss training and hurling with them.
Fanning also thanked his club and his family for their “great support at all times.”
The experienced defender will be a huge loss to the county for the 2011 season having been involved with the seniors since 2004.
He played on the county minor team in 1997, winning a Munster title but had to wait until 2004 before he made his senior debut – a league game against Wexford.
He made his championship debut at centre-back that year against Limerick and cemented his place on the team over the coming seasons, culminating in an All-Star award in 2007 for a series of terrific performances.
The following year he won a National Hurling League and Munster Championship medal but Waterford put an end to their All-Ireland ambitions with a 1-20 to 1-18 win in the semi-final.
Last year he finished on the losing side in the final as Kilkenny claimed a famous four-in-a-row but this year he went one better and claimed a first All-Ireland medal.
Meanwhile, another Tipp defender of a younger vintage is currently basking in his sides latest club success and the season is not yet done for 21-year-old Pádraic Maher.
Already this year the strapping youngster has won All-Ireland senior and U-21 medals with Tipperary; on Sunday last in Semple Stadium he topped that up with another Tipperary senior county title with the Sars, for which he also won the man-of-the-match award. Considering that last year – his first year as a senior inter-county player – he won a Munster title, All-Ireland runners-up, and his first All-Star award; considering also that before this year is over he could well have added a Munster club to all the above, well, you get the drift.
Standing between Pádraic and that Munster title, however, is the considerable obstacle of Kilmallock, in Kilmallock, in the semi-final on next Sunday week, November 14th. And Pádraic knows – the Limerick champions will offer as big a challenge as Sars have faced this year, and especially so in their own backyard. “There’s a lot of expectancy in Thurles about this team; the main thing was to win the county, and that’s probably the hardest thing, to win your own county title. We’ve done that, now you have to aim higher – Thurles haven’t ever won a Munster title, so we’re trying to make history. Kilmallock in Kilmallock, we’ll give it a good rattle. From what we know about them they’re a very strong team in Limerick, won several minor and U-21 titles in a row. They’re building up to be a good senior team over the last few years, the same as ourselves, we’ve been building also. We know it’s going to be very difficult going down there, and that’s been proven over the last few years at county level, it’s never easy for anyone against Limerick when the game is played in Kilmallock. We’ll be doing very well to come out of there with a win.”
They had a comfortable win in the end against Clonoulty-Rossmore, and the defence – Pádraic magnificent at centre-back – did a superb job to hold a dangerous Clonoulty attack to just 1-7. In the final quarter Sars allowed three clear goal-scoring chances. The first of those saw John O’Neill’s point-blank shot somehow deflected over the bar by full-back Kevin O’Gorman, the other two were brilliantly saved by keeper and captain Paddy McCormack. But Kevin’s save, says Paddy, was the crucial one: “He put his whole body on the line. Lucky enough it deflected over the bar – some days that would have gone under. He did everything right, got the block in, but a goal at that stage would have really lifted Clonoulty.
The work rate was unbelievable, it was good not to concede a goal in that period. It wasn’t the perfect performance by any means, and it gives us something to work on when we get back to training. Now we have to drive on in Munster, and we’ll look to draw on the experience of last year when we lost out to Newtownshandrum by a point.”
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