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Five GAA Players Forced Into Retirement Before Their Time

GAA retirement

GAA fans around the country were shocked to learn of the retirement of Limerick sharpshooter Shane Dowling on Thursday morning.

The 27-year-old, who won an All-Ireland medal with the Treaty County in 2018, explained that his hand was forced due to retirement.

“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.

GAA retirement

“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”.

Dowling joins an unfortunate list of GAA players who have been forced into retirement before their time and we take a look back at just some of the other players who have found themselves in the same position.


Colm O’Neill (Cork) 

A knee injury also brought the inter-county career of Colm O’Neill to an end in 2018 when the Cork man was just 29.

GAA retirement

O’Neill won two All-Ireland U21 medals with Cork, captaining the side on one of those occasions, while he came on as a substitute in the 2010 final victory over Down, earning himself an All-Ireland medal.

Throughout his career, the Ballyclough man suffered three cruciate ligament injuries and tore cartilage in his knee during the 2018 Munster semi-final against Tipperary.


Ronan Clarke (Armagh)

Ronan Clarke was another GAA player forced into retirement having been the star for Armagh from 2000 to 2011, winning five Ulster titles, two All-Stars while he was part of their 2002 All-Ireland winning team.

GAA retirement

However, injury disrupted much of his career, he missed the 2007 campaign due to a cruciate injury and while he enjoyed a prosperous year with Armagh in 2008, an Achilles injury during the National League in 2011 spelled the end of his inter-county career when he was just 28.


Gearoid Ryan (Tipperary)

Tipperary’s Gearoid Ryan was just 28 when he announced his retirement from inter-county hurling in 2016.

GAA retirement

He was a pivotal member of Liam Sheedy’s 2010 All-Ireland winning side but persistent injuries culminated in a double hip-surgery in 2013 which continued to hamper his fitness. In a statement, Ryan explained that his ability to compete for a starting place was severely hampered by injuries and that was a major factor when deciding to retire.


Darach Honan (Clare) 

2013 All-Ireland winner Darach Honan announced his retirement in October 2017 at just 27 years of age. Speaking to RTÉ at the time, he blamed his early retirement on their training workload.

Honan, who scored one of Clare’s goals in the 2013 final replay victory over Cork, suffered from persistent hip injuries and was told that he would need hip replacement surgery within two years if he did not give up hurling.

GAA retirement


Conor Shanagher (Roscommon)

In what was an unbelievable story, Roscommon U20 star Conor Shanagher was forced to hand up his boots in 2018 after suffering six concussions.

Four of those concussions occurred before he was 18 while he suffered another during the U20 Connacht Football sem-final in 2018 when he was unconscious for three minutes.

In the space of three blog posts, Shanagher opened up about his experiences with concussion in the hope of raising awareness.

“There was a lot of soul searching which made me realise for now I’m retired from contact sport. The last thing I thought I would be doing by 20 is retiring from the sport I love but at the end of the day I have to look after my health”, he wrote.

Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter