The “most underrated and selfless” of Kilkenny hurlers, Eoin Larkin, announced his inter-county retirement.
A host of former team-mates and current stars paid tribute to the James Stephens clubman, who won eight All-Ireland senior medals in 12 seasons with the Cats.
Ex-Kilkenny star JJ Delaney described Larkin as “an unbelievable team player”, who “always played well on the big days.”
And former long-serving Kilkenny defender Michael Kavanagh thanked Larkin for a “fantastic career”, saluting a player who “pulled Kilkenny and James Stephens over the line time after time.”
And recently-retired Jackie Tyrrell hailed “the most underrated and selfless player, with unbelievable skills. The retirement home is filling up nicely, be some over 40s team.”
Larkin made his senior championship debut against Offaly at Croke Park in 2005 — and went on to claim those eight All-Ireland medals, ten Leinster titles, six National Hurling League crowns and two All-Star awards. He was also honoured with the Hurler of the Year award in 2008.
Larkin, 32, also won All-Ireland medals with Kilkenny at minor level (2002) and with the U21s two years later. He also helped James Stephens to All-Ireland club glory in 2005, and will continue to line out for his club.
Larkin’s dedication to the Kilkenny cause was never more in evidence than earlier this year when he returned from peacekeeping duty with the Army in war-torn Syria to play another key role in the march to Leinster glory and an All-Ireland final.
Larkin admitted that he was playing catch-up in terms of fitness and after being dropped for the drawn All-Ireland semi-final clash against Waterford, he made a huge contribution off the bench in the second half, scoring two points.
That form earned Larkin a recall to the starting line-up for the replay, and he held his place for the final defeat against Tipperary, which was his last appearance in the black and amber.
In a statement, Larkin said: “After due consideration, I have decided that now is the right time for me to announce my inter-county retirement.
“I have enjoyed 12 of the best years of my life, with success I could only have dreamed of. It was always my dream from a young age to play, captain and win an All-Ireland with Kilkenny and I’m proud and happy to say I lived my dream.”
In 2012, Larkin had the honour of lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup on Kilkenny’s behalf, following their All-Ireland final replay victory over Galway.
He added: “I am content to walk away now knowing I gave everything I could for myself but also the team every time I walked out on the training pitch or pulled on a Kilkenny jersey, and left no stone unturned in the pursuit of perfection, although I never got close.
“I’ve played with and against some of the best players of all time and had the privilege of working with the best manager of all time for those years.
“Doing what I loved doing for 12 years didn’t seem like a sacrifice but although they never said anything, I know for a fact my family sacrificed a massive amount for me to fulfil my dream.
“I will never be able to thank my mother enough for the unwavering support in every way possible, and my father for his support and the opportunity he gave me from a young age to do what I loved.
“He brought me to trainings and matches and never hesitated when I asked ‘could we go for a few pucks?’
“It was this that allowed me to practice and become the hurler I am today.
“I can never thank my wife Anne enough for the last 12 years of support, advice and often a little pick-me-up when things weren’t going so well.
“I also want to thank my children — Mark, Holly and Ellie — for their support and understanding for what I loved doing. It is certainly payback time now.”
In his statement, Larkin also thanked his siblings, extended family and friends, and the Defence Forces “for their understanding and support throughout my career.”
And he said: “I want to thank Brian (Cody) for the opportunity of playing for Kilkenny and will be forever grateful.
“I will continue to play for my beloved James Stephens for as long as I can and will go in search of further dreams.”
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