'I knew it was all over for me two weeks ago' - Dowling on coming to terms with Limerick retirement

The 2018 All-Ireland winner called time on his inter-county career today.

LIMERICK’S SHANE DOWLING says he knew his inter-county career was over two weeks ago, after a long period of struggling with a persistent knee injury.

shane-dowling-celebrates-scoring-their-third-goal Shane Dowling after scoring a goal in the 2018 All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 2018 All-Ireland winner called time on his days in a Limerick jersey today at the age of 27, saying in a statement that he was forced to make the decision due to problems with his knee.

He first suffered a serious knee injury in 2017 and has undergone three surgeries in as many years in a bid to save his career.

Speaking on RTÉ 2FM’s Game on this evening, he explained that he knew he had reached the end of the road two weeks ago, and is still coming to terms with the reality of his situation.

“It was two weeks ago when I knew it was all over for me,” he begins.

“I met a couple of friends and I didn’t even go into it in full detail, I just said I was going to be under pressure [to get back], and listen I was lying to people down here in Limerick, I was lying to my family.

I was lying to everybody about how my knee was. I was saying ‘I’m hoping, I’ll get there’ and knowing in my heart and soul that I wasn’t going to get there.

“It was affecting me and I just said, ‘This is the story, there’s no point delaying the inevitable and I just have to deal with it and move on.’

“I rang [Limerick manager] John Kiely last Friday to call in for a cup of tea. He called into the house, we sat down for two hours and I told him. When he left, I closed the door. He walked away and it was a very difficult hour after that.

I knew what the situation was going to be before he came [but] when he left and I closed the door, that was final for me.”

The Na Piarsaigh forward went on to explain that he broke the news to Limerick captain and lifelong friend Declan Hannon the next day. He struggled to tell his parents about his decision to retire before he “broke down in front of them.”

“I just found it very difficult because they’ve been a part of the journey with me and they guided me in this direction,” says Dowling about the emotion involved in stepping away from a senior Limerick career that began for him in 2012.

Their words were, ‘Once you’ll be ok, we’ll be ok.’ And I will be ok.”

Commenting on the extent of his knee injury, Dowling explained that he had been following a rehabilitation programme for the last three months. He was experiencing some persistent pain and eventually sought to have it checked out.

“The problem was I had four loose bodies [cartilage] in my knees that were floating around the place,” he continues.

The surgeon said he couldn’t understand how I went on as long as I did without checking it out.

“Basically all my cartilage is diseased and I’ve developed three different holes in the same knee, all cartilage related. Basically I had a bit of diseased cartilage that fell off and that created loose bodies. And now I’ve a big hole in my knee because the cartilage is gone.”

shane-dowling-celebrates-after-the-game Dowling after Na Piarsaigh's 2016 All-Ireland win. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Looking towards the future, Dowling said he hopes to be able to do some cycling and swimming and perhaps some running soon. Playing for Na Piarsaigh again is a target for him but he won’t be lining out for the 2016 All-Ireland club winners in the near future.

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“I live 15 seconds beside the pitch in Na Piarsaigh. I spent every night there as a kid, I pucked out balls when the senior team were training and since I was six years of age, all I’ve ever known is hurling.

“If there’s 365 days in the year, I’m occupied for 200 of them in terms of training. That’s been the case for God knows how many years. It was my life and now it’s gone.

It’s a big void in my life and it’s such a disappointment.”

Dowling expressed his love and gratitude for his team-mates, club mates and everyone who played a part in helping him along in an impressive hurling career, which was far too brief for a player of his talent.

Having tried out coaching with his club, he said he would like to explore that side of the game more in the future.

“There’s no point worrying, that’s not going to solve anything. I’m upset right now. I’d like to think that I’ll recover and be able to live a normal life. Will I have to get a knee replacement? Yes I will. Does it bother me? No it doesn’t. Knee replacements these days are as common as the cold so I just want to live a normal life going forward.

If that allows me to play a small bit with my club, well and good. If it doesn’t so be it too. That’s just the way it goes.”

You can listen to the full interview with Shane Dowling on Game On here

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