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'It was a complete shock. It's heartbreaking for him, he had more to offer'

Premier great Padraic Maher confirmed the ‘heartbreaking’ decision to hang up his hurley today.

Tipperary’s Padraic Maher.
Tipperary’s Padraic Maher.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

COLM BONNAR HAS described Padraic Maher’s retirement as “heartbreaking” after the Tipperary great was forced to retire on medical advice.

The three-time All-Ireland winner and six-time All-Star made the surprise announcement this morning, bringing an end to one of the great hurling careers.

All indications were that the 32-year-old was gearing up for the coming season until he made the surprise decision. 

At a press event on 18 January, Maher spoke about his plans to return for the 2022 season. “I still feel I have something to offer,” he stated. “I wouldn’t be going back if I didn’t.”

He informed the Tipperary management that he had an ongoing ankle injury he wanted to get right before rejoining the squad, before he received news that his neck injury was career-ending.

“He was all ready to go and he was just giving himself a couple of weeks to build up and get the prehab done with (team physio) John Casey,” explained Tipp manager Bonnar.

“In the mean time he received medical advice regarding a neck injury and he was advised to stop any type of contact.

“Obviously he can do his training and work away there, but in terms of sport he had to step away from it. It was a complete shock to him and to us.

“We only found out lately over the weekend that this could be something happening and he had to retire on health issues.

“It’s heartbreaking for him, he had more to offer,” he added.

Maher was aware of the neck issue for some time and worked alongside Tipperary and Thurles Sarsfields doctor Paul Ryan to assess it further. 

“There was a concern there and they went further into it. His surgeon or whoever he met advised him to step away from contact sports.

“So yeah, it happened very, very quickly,” said Bonnar. 

He continued, “I think the sort of man that Padraic is, he didn’t want this to be hanging over himself or the team, he just felt he needed to make an announcement and move forward.

“He would have put a message into our WhatsApp this morning to the players. It was always a dream of his to play for Tipperary and players knew that and he cherished every moment of it.

“He loved every moment of it, that’s the impression he gave and that’s what’s going to be missing in that dressing-room, that experience. We were all hoping he’d get back in but it’s not to be.”

padraic-maher Padraic Maher has forced to retire at 32. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Bonnar, who is preparing for his first National League game in charge of Tipperary against Laois this weekend, was in no doubt that Maher had plenty left in the tank. 

“We had seen him in the club championships and he was still a towering strength in terms of the backline for Thurles Sarsfields. A lot of players he put in his pocket throughout that campaign and he still had so much to offer and knew that himself.

“That’s why it’s so heartbreaking to him he has to step away at this stage. If you look back over 13 years, it’s just been so unbelievable for him. He’s had a great hurling life that he’ll be so proud of. I just wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Summing up Maher’s legacy in Tipperary hurling, Bonnar said:

“The team I played on won a couple of All-Irelands but had we anyone the calibre of that player? I doubt it. I think he would have walked onto our team, onto a lot of teams, that’s how good he was.

“He had to develop his game to a more modern type as he grew. He was a huge man to catch and balloon it down the field or to come out of tackles and to strike it. But as the game developed he was able to give that more considered pass so he had the intelligence to change his game as was needed.

“If you were to pick the top backs that represented Tipperary over the last 100 years you couldn’t but name him.

“He has six All-Stars, which just shows how much esteem he’s held in by everyone else. His club journey, seven county medals, everything he has done has been out of this world.

“I would have loved him to be part of the team I was with in 1989 and ’91, that’s for sure. 

“He has been such a leader, a warrior, he always stood up. He was a colossal man in terms of being under the high ball. His power under that high ball always amazed me.

“He had so many powerful games and he was never found wanting in the heat of battle.”

colm-bonnar-at-the-game Tipperary manager Colm Bonnar. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His retirement comes hot on the heels of Brendan Maher’s decision to call time on his career. Just three members from 2010 All-Ireland winning team remain on the panel: Seamie Callanan, Noel McGrath and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher.

“You talk about those two players especially, you talk about leaders and warriors, you talk about inspirational play,” said Bonnar. “Both of those players were hugely consistent in their performances and in the heat of battle were never found wanting.

“Yeah, they’re big, big shoes to fill for any player coming through. That’s where the challenge is for the younger players coming in, we have a young, dynamic group of players that would have won (U20) All-Irelands in ’18 and ’19 and they’re biting at the bit to get a chance to get in there.

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“Yeah, it would have been great to have the likes of Brendan and Padraic in there and educating these players and bringing them on, but they’ll have to find their feet quickly because this league is starting next Saturday. Obviously it’s an opportunity for the players to step up and get the experience that’s needed to play at this level.”

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Tributes poured in for Padraic Maher on Twitter following his announcement.

Lar Corbett

Eddie Brennan

Paddy Stapleton

Loughmore-Castleiney GAA

Brian Carroll

Originally published at 12.56

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Kevin O'Brien

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