Knee injury nightmare forces Shane Dowling to call time on Limerick career
HE was the super-sub who came off the bench to help propel Limerick to All-Ireland glory two years ago, but yesterday Shane Dowling announced his retirement from inter-county hurling at just 27 after a long battle with injury.
An All-Star in 2014, the Na Piarsaigh man enjoyed a stellar career in the green jersey, playing a key role as the Treaty swept all before them to land the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2018 – ending a wait of 45 years.
Dowling was boss John Kiely's ace in the hole during that summer odyssey, springing from the bench against Cork and Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and final respectively.
He has also made his presence felt against Ulster opposition wearing the sky blue of his club, Na Piarsaigh, firing over seven points in the 2016 All-Ireland Club SHC final to curtail Cushendall's ambitions.
At the semi-final stage two years later, Dowling lit up Parnell Park with a piece of individual brilliance against Slaughtneil.
Coming back following four months on the sidelines, he was brought off the bench at half-time after the Ulster champions had edged ahead going into the break.
Their lead wouldn't last long though and Dowling inflicted maximum damage after dispossessing Emmett's goalkeeper Oisin O'Doherty before outrageously scooping the ball over another Slaughtneil man then smashing the sliothar into the back of the net.
It was a moment of magic, but unfortunately his skills will not be showcased in the green of Limerick again as Dowling called time on his inter-county days as a result of the recurring knee injury that has seen him go under the surgeon's knife three times in as many years.
“It is with deep regret and heartbreak that I have to announce my retirement from inter-county hurling today,” he said in a statement.
“This is a decision that I have struggled to accept, and may still struggle to accept over the coming years, given its premature nature. To be speaking about retirement from the game I adore, at the age of 27, is not what I ever intended or imagined, and I still hardly believe this is happening, but unfortunately I have been left with no other option.
“After three surgeries on my knee in as many years, and with the possibility of another, my knee can no longer support the demands of inter-county hurling.
"As I close this chapter of my life, which is heart-breaking for me, I am going to try and look at the positives, and fortunately for me there are a lot of them. I fulfilled my dreams, which was above and beyond what I ever thought was possible.
"I have no doubt that my obsession with the game of hurling will continue in different capacities, in the months and years to come.
"If someone had told me that July of 2019 would be the last time that I would wear the green and white of Limerick, I would have said they were mad. But there you go, that's life, that's sport, so nail it every chance you get."
Kiely was quick to hail the impact of Limerick's record Championship scorer, and described Dowling as “a tremendous example and inspiration to all young players who aspire to play for Limerick”.
He said: “When a big moment was required Shane was a player you could depend on to produce a piece of magic. These moments of leadership are what separates the good player from the great player.
"Shane is a tremendous example and inspiration to all young players who aspire to play for Limerick. He was always extremely generous with his time for our younger supporters and he was always a favourite of theirs.
"Shane has always worn the jersey with pride and distinction. His fantastic array of skills, coupled with incredible peripheral vision, nerves of steel, creativity and a killer instinct making Shane a forward to be feared."