Mullane brings curtain down on his intercounty career
John Mullane’s retirement from intercounty hurling means that only 39-year-old Tony Browne, who is also considering his future, remains of the team that in 2002 won Waterford’s first Munster title in 39 years.
The move, whereas unexpected, wasn’t a complete surprise and had been the subject of recent speculation. A year ago there had also been rumours that he was considering his position after being disappointed at not being made captain but he always denied that this had been an issue and played last year, winning his fifth All Star in the process.
The player will hold a press conference this morning at 11am.
There will be hopes in Waterford that his retirement will prove as short-lived as another All Star, Lar Corbett, who returned to Tipperary colours in May after announcing his retirement but Mullane will have put much thought into the decision and with Waterford in decline he will have known that the chances of winning the elusive All-Ireland medal had faded.
He goes out at the top of his game – the All Star recognition of a fine season in which he and Kevin Moran, expected to be appointed Waterford captain this year, almost turned around the All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork – as one extraordinary statistic indicates: since the 2007 defeat by Limerick he has scored from play in every one of Waterford’s championship matches.
The All Star was his fourth successive award.
Mullane announced his intention on the Gaelic Players Association website yesterday evening. “After months of deliberation,” he said, “I feel the time is right to bring the curtain down on my intercounty career. The sense of genuine pride I got from wearing the Waterford jersey and representing the county I love will live with me forever.
“Throughout those 13 years I was fortunate enough to play with some great players. I would like to thank all the players sincerely for their support, and more importantly, their friendship.”
He thanked all of those he had worked with over the 12 years of his involvement with the county adding: “My relationship with the Waterford supporters has always been a very special one and I sincerely thank them for their support in both good and bad times.”
Mullane made his championship debut in 2001 against Limerick in an extraordinary match when Waterford lost an 11-point lead but the debutant had to be replaced after picking up an injury.
He scored four points from play on the day Waterford beat Tipperary in the following year’s provincial final but it was a year later when he hit a hat-trick of goals against Cork in the 2003 Munster final.
Current Waterford manager Michael Ryan said last night that he had met the player this week and denied that the captaincy had been an issue: “I met him for an hour on Wednesday night and it’s disappointing news. We’re very good friends but John felt that the time was right.
“He’s been a fantastic player for Waterford and the game of hurling will be poorer because John Mullane isn’t playing.
“Of course I wanted him to stay on. We had a really good, sincere chat and he hadn’t a complaint in the world. He leaves the game a happy man; he gave his best and performed well.
“He was happy with the set-up and while people will try to make an issue of the captaincy but there wasn’t an issue between us in the wide-earthly world.”
Writing on Twitter, former Waterford team-mate Brian Flannery said: “John Mullane is one the best ambassadors for both Waterford and the GAA. Passionate guy that wore his heart on his sleeve.”
Joe Dooley, former Offaly manager and All-Ireland winner added: “Best wishes to John Mullane in his retirement. He always gave his all for the Déise. A big blow to Waterford chances in 2013.”
All-Ireland winning Dublin football manager Pat Gilroy, now in charge of Leinster with selectors Seán Boylan and Mickey Whelan, will tonight start preparations for this year’s interprovincial series with a challenge match against his former team in Parnell Park at 7.30pm. This day week a similar challenge will take place in Navan against Meath.
Leinster’s semi-final against Connacht is scheduled for Longford on Sunday, February 17th. Admission to both games is free.