Game broke me mentally – Mullane
WATERFORD star John Mullane has insisted that there will be no going back on his decision to retire from inter-county hurling.
Mullane is adamant that there will be no Lar Corbett-style U-turn championship. The 31-year-old forward called a press conference at the Granville Hotel in Waterford yesterday to explain why he called it a day after 12 seasons of top-level hurling.
He revealed that he was offered the captaincy of the Waterford team by manager Michael Ryan in September.
But not even that carrot could persuade Mullane to commit for another season, as he admitted that the stresses and strains of the modern game had left him "mentally broken."
Mullane said: "I just felt in the end that mentally it just broke me – I had enough. Physically I feel I could have gone on for another year or two, but mentally I'd had enough.
"I knew last year. We were running up the hills in Carriganore with Eoin Kelly, Eoin McGrath and Shane 'Bangers' Casey, and I remember coming down the hills and almost getting sick, and the three of us, me and the two Eoins, were saying we'd see out the year.
"I knew it then. I gave myself every opportunity, I didn't want to jump into it, so I gave myself Christmas and January – and my mindset didn't change."
He added: "I'm a firm believer that when you call time, you call time. The future for me now is to put more energy into family life."
Mullane reflected on a Waterford senior championship career dating back to his debut against Limerick in 2001 and singled out the historic Munster final victory over Tipperary in 2002 as the highlight.
A sensational victory at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, against the then All-Ireland champions, earned Waterford a first senior provincial title since 1963.
Mullane shot four points but he revealed yesterday how he felt at the peak of his powers in 2004, when Kilkenny defeated Waterford by 3-12 to 0-18 points in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Mullane was suspended for that fixture, having received a straight red card in the Munster final victory over Cork, a game described as one of the greatest of all time. Mullane was sent off following an off-the-ball incident with Brian Murphy.
He confirmed yesterday that a local businessman had offered to fund a legal battle in an attempt to avoid suspension but Mullane refused to go down that route and was lauded at the time for serving a one-month ban.
"The money was on the table, there was a local businessman rang me and asked me," Mullane said. "But for my own sanity it was never an area I was going to go down."
On the subject of finance, Mullane believes that Croke Park officials must loosen the purse strings or run the risk of losing more players.
He explained: "There has to be more rewards for players. They're not getting enough out of it. I'm not saying there should be pay for play but the GAA can look at other aspects. I would be looking at setting aside €3.2m. It sounds a lot but it's one big gate in Croke Park – €100,000 to each county, €50,000 for hurling and €50,000 for football.
"Then the county board come in and look after the expenses side of it, the gear and the meals. That €50,000 would be there then if teams wanted to go down the road of training camps or be rewarded at the end of the year with a team holiday. What you're seeing more often now is that players are being asked to go out and do fundraising, boxing nights and 'strictly come dancing'.
"I don't think players should be put in that position. Everything should be put in place for players. It comes at a cost but Croke Park must start helping counties, particularly the likes of Waterford. Otherwise we'll continue to lose players."
Mullane believes that the Deise have been in transition but predicted that they will rise again and he also conceded that not winning an All-Ireland senior medal was a big disappointment.
When asked if he would have stayed on if he believed that there was an All-Ireland title in Waterford this year, Mullane replied: "Ah, I don't know. There comes a time when you say in your own mind that you've had enough. You're in a pivotal position, you don't want to let people down and I'd set high standards for myself and I didn't want to drop below those. That's all pressure."
Mullane added that he now wishes to spend more time with his wife Stephanie and his two daughters, Abbie (six) and Katie (two). "Chasing the dream for me is over," he added. "I'd like to see some other kid come through and fulfil his dream of winning an All-Ireland some day for Waterford."