Tipperary hurling manager Colm Bonnar has described the retirement of Pádraic Maher as "a complete shock" to both the player and the team management.
"He was at the launch of the FBD, when they named the stadium the FBD Semple Stadium, so 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 John Casey.
“I suppose in the meantime 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 and 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. 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, and 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.”
At a press launch last month, Maher had enthusiastically committed to the coming season, saying that he believed he still had something to offer at the game’s top level. Injury, however intervened.
Bonnar, who starts his first season as Tipperary manager on Saturday with the opening league fixture against Laois, said that the three-time All-Ireland winner had acted swiftly to give the team and management clarity as quickly as possible.
“I think the sort of man that Pádraic 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 dressingroom, that experience. We were all hoping he’d get back in but it’s not to be.”
His retirement means that just three players – Noel McGrath, Patrick Maher and Séamus Callanan – remain from those who played in the breakthrough 2010 All-Ireland final defeat of Kilkenny. It also comes on top of a similar decision by his long-time comrade-in-arms, Brendan Maher – two departures that Bonnar acknowledged would be challenging.
“Yeah. You talk about those two players especially – you talk about leaders and warriors, you talk about inspirational play. Both of those players were hugely consistent in their performances and in the heat of battle were never found wanting.
“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 All-Irelands in ’18 and ’19 and they’re biting at the bit to get a chance to get in there.
“Yeah, it would have been great to have the likes of Brendan and Pádraic 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 and obviously it’s an opportunity for the players to step up and get the experience that’s needed to play at this level.”