Thursday 18 December 2014

Schmidt and O'Driscoll lead tributes as injury forces Horgan to call time on stellar career

‘One of the greats of Leinster and Irish rugby’

Published 29/03/2012 | 05:00

Shane Horgan applauds the crowd after the Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at Croke Park in February 2008
Shane Horgan celebrates winning the 2011 Heineken Cup with team-mate and friend Brian O'Driscoll

APPROPRIATELY for a player who soared so high during his career Shane Horgan went out at the top -- even if it took nearly a year to confirm it.

While he did play a week later when Munster ruined Leinster's double dream, the 33-year-old bows out a European champion after starring in the province's remarkable Heineken Cup final comeback against Northampton last May.

Thus, injury has claimed another of Ireland's golden generation and Horgan was as gilt-edged as they come -- perhaps ranking alongside Denis Hickie and just behind Tommy Bowe as one of the greatest wingers of the professional era. His career mirrored the growth of Irish rugby's most successful era and the former Meath minor footballer was one of the first of many stars to emerge, despite not having gone to a 'rugby' school.

Ultimately, it was his knee that forced Horgan to call time on his career. He played through the pain barrier at the end of last season, but having undergone surgery during the summer, the winger couldn't get the joint strong enough to play again. Unorthodox in physique and background, he first came to national consciousness 12 years ago when Warren Gatland rolled the dice after a 50-18 Twickenham hammering and handed new caps to five players who would help define a decade.

The gangly 21-year-old had started to make a name for himself for Lansdowne and Leinster before the New Zealander handed him his chance alongside Peter Stringer, Simon Easterby, Ronan O'Gara and John Hayes. The new arrivals helped secure a 44-22 win over the Scots.

Winner

After crossing for a try on his debut, Horgan would go on to win 65 caps for Ireland, four for the Lions. He finished his career as Ireland's fourth all-time try scorer behind Brian O'Driscoll, Denis Hickie and Tommy Bowe, having crossed the line 21 times.

And it is two of those tries that are the reason that Horgan will not be forgotten soon as they both came against England. His winner at Twickenham in 2006 -- his second that day -- will go down as one of Ireland's best ever as he eked everything out of his 6ft 4in frame to stretch out his hand and ground the ball, despite Lewis Moody's tackle.

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