New Beginnings

The Irish rugby players who bowed out of the game this year

Only one man got to choose exactly when he’d bow out.

RUGBY IS A game that claims far more than its fair share of enforced retirements.

Players who manage to run the course and bow out at a time of their own choosing are becoming increasingly rare and that’s reflected in this rundown of Irish rugby players who have hung up their boots this year. More often than not, retirement is not a choice these days.

Eoin Reddan

The Limerick man made almost the best exit a rugby player could hope for this past summer. At 35, he played his 71st and final international Test for Ireland away to the Springboks.

Ireland’s Eoin Reddan Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

After 385 games as a professional with four different clubs, it was a departure that was well-planned. Reddan spent his twilight years in the game studying and preparing himself for a life post-sports. But what a rugby career it was, Reddan won nine major titles including three Heineken Cups and two Six Nations crowns.

Nathan White

The Kiwi Ireland international made himself a favourite of Joe Schmidt’s with some excellent displays at both the set-piece and open field during his European Cup-winning year with Leinster.

Nathan White Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

White moved on to Connacht and qualified for Ireland in time to take a spot in the World Cup squad last year. However, he missed out on the western province’s thrilling end of season as a March concussion ultimately ended his career at 34.

Paul O’Connell

The big one. O’Connell played his last game of rugby in the 2015 World Cup, but with a contract from Toulon on the table, he worked hard to recover from the excruciating hamstring injury suffered against France in Cardiff, his 108th game in green.

Paul O'Connell working in the Video Analysis Suite Morgan Treacy / INPHO Paul O'Connell working in Munster's video analysis suite Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Whether through his leadership and relentless efforts on the field, or by the part he played in changing attitudes towards serious high performance, the second row’s impact on Irish rugby can not be overstated.

Luke Fitzgerald

One of the brightest talents and biggest hopes to fly up through the Irish system. But injury was rarely very far away for the Dubliner, as 34 caps in 10 years will testify.

Luke Fitzgerald gets tackled by Adriaan Strauss Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The Pro12 final in Murrayfield, a celebration of rugby in so many other ways, was the final straw for the then 28-year-old Fitzgerald as he played on with neck and knee injuries in the hope that he could help Leinster pull something out of the fire.

John Andress

A tighthead who, in the very recent past, was among the most respected scrummagers in the Aviva Premiership. Andress had to ply his trade overseas for the majority of his career after leaving Belfast Harlequins for Exeter in 2007.

John Andress and Jerry Flannery James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

This summer, the IRFU called him home, but his 32-year-old body had started to creak and this month, he called time on his stint with Munster and the game by saying: “after 12 seasons, I no longer feel that my body is capable of the rigours that the pro game requires.”

Dave Mc Sharry

A long-standing concussion issue forced the 26-year-old Dubliner to part ways with Connacht before the start of the season.

Dave McSharry James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

An evasive inside centre, McSharry was an ideal foil for the hard-running Bundee Aki while Robbie Henshaw was still a fullback. Plucked from the All-Ireland League, he was part of some memorable days on Connacht’s rise to the top including, the European Cup wins at home to Harlequins and away to Toulouse.

Johnny Holland

Munster’s Johnny Holland Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

The 25-year-old playmaker had been ear-marked as a potential successor to Ronan O’Gara, but a 2014 hamstring injury had a lasting impact. Though he returned to play for Munster last season, the Corkman was advised to give up the sport in August.

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