Saturday 22 July 2017

Corner-back for the ages Tyrrell announces retirement

Jackie Tyrrell:
Jackie Tyrrell: "I am making this decision (to retire) comfortable in the knowledge that I never settled for anything less than giving it my very best." Pic: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Jackie Tyrrell's decision to retire comes as no surprise at a time when Kilkenny are heading for a period of renewal.

As they have proven so often, that doesn't necessarily equate to a slump, as their capacity to regenerate while still remaining at the top end of the market has been an enduring trait during the Brian Cody era.

Tyrrell's announcement that after "careful consideration and reflection" he had decided to retire removed another brick from one of the highest defensive walls ever erected in any county.

However, it was expected. Now aged 34 and having had the latter stages of his remarkable career niggled by injury, it would have been very difficult to head into another season of the incredibly hard work that awaits the Kilkenny squad when they return to training.

Even then, his prospects of seeing much action would be limited. He remained on the bench right through this year's All-Ireland final, watching as the Tipperary attack took Kilkenny for 2-29.

Pádraig Walsh and Cillian Buckley were the only two Kilkenny defenders not overwhelmed by the blue-and-gold waves, yet Tyrrell wasn't despatched into the action.

And when Cody opted for change, he sent Robert Lennon in for Kieran Joyce in what was the only personnel change in defence.

Kilkenny supporters left Croke Park suspecting that it was highly unlikely they would see Tyrrell in a Kilkenny jersey again.

He had served it well across all grades, most especially in a senior career which was launched against Offaly in 2005. It lasted for more than a decade, during which he established himself as one of the best corner-backs in hurling history.

Tyrrell understood the art of corner-back back play in minute detail. In his early days there was a view that he lacked pace, a perception that encouraged opposition to despatch quick, nimble No 13s in his direction with an instruction to 'run at him'.

Smothered

Most lived to tell a sorry tale of either being unable to gain possession or else being smothered by his massive wing-span as he moved in on the ball-carrier.

It's true that he wasn't the quickest of defenders but such was his ability to read the game that he had an instinctive knowledge of how play would develop. It usually took him to the point of the action faster than those who could out-sprint him. "I am making this decision (to retire) comfortable in the knowledge that I never settled for anything less than giving it my very best. I fought to the end and I never gave up until the contest was over.

"Being part of the Kilkenny senior hurling panel for the past 14 years has been an unbelievable journey that has given me endless fulfilment, satisfaction, enjoyment and happiness.

"I have had the privilege of playing with and against some of the greatest sportsmen of our time

"I consider myself lucky to have played under the greatest GAA manager of all time, Brian Cody. I thank him and his management teams for their confidence in me right up to the present time," said Tyrrell in his resignation statement.

He intends to continue playing club hurling with James Stephens.

Irish Independent

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