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Irish centre James Downey announces retirement after 'rollercoaster' career

The 35-year-old Dubliner is set to embark on a new role in the financial world.

James Downey was capped by Ireland in a game against Canada in June 2013.
James Downey was capped by Ireland in a game against Canada in June 2013.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

JAMES DOWNEY IS hanging up his boots at the end of the season after a 13-year professional career during which he represented seven different clubs across Ireland, England, Scotland and Italy.

Downey’s retirement was announced this afternoon by Wasps, who the Dubliner has represented since Ferbuary 2015, when he joined the English side from Glasgow Warriors.

The 35-year-old centre, who won a Leinster Schools Junior Cup medal with Belvedere College, is set to embark on a new role in the financial world, according to a statement from Wasps, who face Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals on Saturday.

“I’ve really enjoyed every moment of being a professional player and have been lucky to have represented some great teams along the way. Being involved with a Wasps side who are now back at the top table is great to be part of. The squad is a tight group and can no doubt push on for titles in the coming years,” said Downey.

“I am one of the lucky ones who can finish on my own terms, not having it cut short like so many do. I’ve loved every minute along the way and have been fortunate to have had a few successful years too, but now I am looking forward to starting the next chapter in my life.”

Downey started his career with stints at Leinster, Connacht and Munster, before moving on to Calvisano in Italy. However, he is best remembered for his time at Northampton Saints, for whom he played 148 times.

During his five seasons at Franklin’s Gardens, Downey won the European Challenge Cup in 2009 and very nearly added a Heineken Cup (European Champions Cup) medal in 2011 when Northampton lost 33-22 to Leinster in the final.

He returned to Munster for a couple of seasons in 2012 — during which he picked up his only full Ireland cap against Canada in June 2013 — before departing for Glasgow Warriors in 2014.

13 years later and the rollercoaster is coming to an end... To have been given the chance to have played professional sport was an absolute dream. The memories I will take will last a lifetime from the highs of winning a game with last play of the game and the lows of being on the receiving end of one!! Being in dressing rooms and hearing some of the greats speak, words which strike the cord like no other could and resonate both on and off the field. I will cherish the camaraderie that the sport brings, the willingness to push that extra mile so you don't let your team mates down. To win and lose together and pushing yourself to "go to the well". To enter the battlefield being urged on by the supporters in packed stadiums. Giving your all and leaving nothing in the tank. The memory of looking around the dressing room having spent all energy and be able to look each guy in the eye and just take it all in. These are some of the memories I shall miss most and will look back on my career with pride. I have been lucky enough to wear some of the most famous jerseys in the world of rugby and it was an honour to do so on every occasion. It's been an honour to have shared the same field as many legends and am looking forward to watching some of the younger lads develop and make their way in the game too. I'd like to thank all my teammates and coaches over the years who helped push me further than I thought possible. Also to my wife, Claudine and my family who have supported me along the way. I'm excited for the next chapter and for what the future will hold. But there is still a semi final to prepare for and hopefully can finish the career on a winning note and push for more honours. Thanks again for all the support over the years 👍🏻 #perviasrectas

A post shared by James Downey (@james_downey12) on

“James has had an impressive 13-year career, representing some fantastic teams during his time in the top flight. He can look back with great pride on that career and on behalf of everyone at Wasps, I wish James and his family the very best for the future,” said Wasps director of rugby Dai Young.

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