Lar Corbett exit signals Tipperary transition
Former Hurler of the Year becomes fourth squad member to retire in less than a week
Lar Corbett has become the fourth Tipperary All-Ireland medal winner to retire inside a week, following earlier departure announcements by Conor O'Mahony, James Woodlock and Shane McGrath.
It signals a rapid changing of the guard at the end of a season which also brought the end of Eamon O'Shea's term as team manager. In a move agreed a year ago, O'Shea has been replaced by Michael Ryan, who served with him as a selector.
While Tipperary won the Munster title for the first time since 2012 in July and later came within a point of Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final, this is clearly regarded as stock-taking time, prior to relaunching for a new cycle next season.
O'Mahony, 31, Woodlock, 29, and McGrath, 31, all decided to leave the inter-county stage in recent days and Corbett, 34, will join them on the terraces after enjoying a highly-successful and frequently flamboyant career.
"Over the past 15 years I have enjoyed many great times playing senior hurling with Tipperary but I've decided that now is the time to announce my retirement," he said.
His final outing for Tipperary was against Galway in August when he replaced Shane McGrath at the three-quarter stage. He got one good goal chance but his shot was saved. He had also come on as a sub against Waterford at half-time in the Munster final, scoring a point.
This was his 15th senior championship season, having made his debut against Clare in the 2001 Munster semi-final. It turned into a dream launch season and, by September, he had won an All-Ireland medal after Tipperary beat Galway in the final.
It looked at that stage as if he would add several more All-Ireland titles to his haul but, in fact, he had to wait until 2010 to win a second medal.
His contribution to Tipperary's great triumph in 2010, when they prevented Kilkenny's from winning a fifth successive title, earned him a place in Premier County folklore as he became the first player since Cork's Eddie O'Connor in 1970 to score three goals in an All-Ireland final.
Tipperary won by 4-17 to 1-18 and Corbett's hat-trick exploits, backed up by solid form throughout the rest of the season, guaranteed him the Hurler of the Year award. "The boys go spare at the final whistle. I keep cool. All I feel is inner satisfaction. I don't need to go haywire to express my happiness," he wrote in his autobiography, 'All in my Head'.
He stepped up his goalscoring exploits in the 2011 Munster final when scoring 4-4 against Waterford in the Munster final but was held scoreless against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final, as Brian Cody's men regained the title.
Corbett stunned the hurling world when he announced his retirement early in 2012 but rescinded his decision a few months later. His role in Tipperary's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Kilkenny is still recalled with a mixture of mirth and mystery.
He was, for some reason, assigned to mark Tommy Walsh. Kilkenny had delegated Jackie Tyrrell to shadow Corbett, which led to a comical situation.
For much of the game Corbett, Pa Bourke, Tyrrell and Walsh followed each other around in a cluster. It suited Kilkenny perfectly to have Corbett involved in such an unconventional arrangement.
"If you're shaking your head and wondering in the name of God what it was all about. I can understand. I would have rather gone out on the field and played hurling. But I wasn't going to be let," wrote Corbett.
He took some nasty personal abuse after that game, which was deeply unfair as his unusual deployment was as part of a wider plan. However, Corbett took most of the blame when it backfired.
He played in two more All-Ireland finals (draw and replay v Kilkenny in 2014) but Tipperary lost second time out and, with it, went Corbett's chance to win a third medal.
Always regarded as a flamboyant character, his ability to deliver something special made him a big favourite with the Tipperary supporters on his better days.
However, there were occasions too when he appeared switched off, leaving him open to criticisms from a public that couldn't understand why he didn't spread magic dust in every game.
His second - and final retirement - comes as no surprise at a time when Tipperary are in transition as, in all probability, his role next year would be confined to bit parts late in games.