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Forgotten Friday – Ian Dowling

It’s a break from football and a return to rugby for this week’s Forgotten Friday. This week is the turn of former Munster winger Ian Dowling. Earlier this week, news broke that Munster flanker Niall Ronan has joined a long list of modern day professional rugby players who have been forced to retire through injury. Dowling was a player hit by this curse a number of years ago and as a result is a forgotten man in Irish rugby.

Dowling was a Kilkenny native who moved to play with Munster in 2005. He made his name in 2006 when he secured a starting berth on the wing and made the position his own. 2006 was a massive highlight in Munster’s history, when after years of heartbreak they finally secured the Heineken Cup title. Dowling was an important part of team as he improved the Munster backline, alongside another previous forgotten man Barry Murphy.

His main highlight that year was his try in the final pool game against Sale Sharks.  It was a typical ‘Munster miracle’ performance at Thomond Park. A win was a must for a quarter-final place, but Munster managed to secure a bonus point and a home quarter-final that set the tone for a run to the final and a subsequent victory. Dowling scored Munster’s second try on that famous night and it was really the game where he became a big part of the Munster side.

We all know what Dowling and Munster achieved in the rest of 2006 and he continued to be a major fixture in the Munster side for the next few seasons. He made the number eleven jersey his own and went onto win a second Heineken Cup medal in 2008. He also received national recognition by receiving an Ireland call up. Unfortunately for Dowling injury struck and his career seemed to move backwards from then on.

Dowling was forced to retire and officially announced his retirement from the game in 2011. Dowling was only 28 and it was a sad shame to see a player having to retire at such a young age. He still had a long career ahead of him but people saw no more of Dowling and many people would need to be reminded of his contribution to Munster rugby. Dowling underwent a hip replacement that would generally be associated with somebody almost twice his age.

Dowling’s story is another one that shows the vulnerability of top level sport and players need to be prepared to cope with career-ending injuries. Since his retirement, Dowling has pursued a career in physiotherapy. He is edging towards the end of his degree and has said how he hopes to help elite athletes cope with injuries. His name and contacts should help him to make a successful business career and it would be a nice to see him succeed having had his career cut short.

He is a forgotten man who did a lot for Munster and was part of the glory days that Munster desire so much again today. The quality of replacements like Keith Earls and Simon Zebo make him easy to forget, but Dowling achieved what these players are currently dreaming of. His achievements and his career are forgotten far too easily and this may help to bring his name to people’s attention again.

Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.

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