CO WEXFORD'S celebrated gold-medal winning Paralympian Darragh McDonald has made the shock decision to retire from competitive swimming, citing circumstances which he described as like 'Billy Walsh x10'.
His only explanation was that there were two years of arguments and 'countless broken deals', and he had to 'walk away from the madness.'
He made the announcement on his Facebook page on Tuesday night, stunning friends and supporters, as it was widely anticipated that he would take another medal for Ireland at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The 21-year-old won bronze at the World Championships in Glasgow just last July, at which time he told the media he was 'really happy' to make the podium as it had been 'a tough season'. He said that he was 'really looking forward to the year ahead and the road to Rio.'
At the age of 14, Darragh won silver in the 400m Freestyle in the 2008 Beijing Games, and four years later in London, he won gold in the same event. After he finished school, he went to study at UCD, training at the 50 metre pool there.
He told this newspaper this week he was unable to make any comment further to his statement at present, but expected to be able to explain more later.
In his statement, he said that 'after over a decade of competitive swimming after much thought and deliberation over the last few weeks, I've made the difficult decision to retire.'
'This decision hasn't been an easy one, but following on from two years of arguments and countless broken deals, (Think Billy Walsh x10),' he wrote, 'I now have to walk away from the madness and focus on life moving forward and the real world.'
'I'd like to thank everyone for their support over all these years,' he continued. 'As I've always said right from the beginning, no-one makes it anywhere on their own, and I've had the opportunity to work with some great people over my career, but special thanks have to be given to my team UCD Swimming and Waterpolo Club, and Earl McCarthy my coach, my old coach John Kealy, and all at Coral Leisure Centre Arklow, my sponsors Hegarty Financial Management Ltd, and of course my family and friends who have been there for me through it all.'
'Ultimately my goal in sport was never about medals, but was to leave Paralympic sport in a much better place than I found it, which if London 2012 and its aftermath is anything to go by my dreams were definitely achieved so I can truly walk away happy,' he continued. 'Once again thank you all for the support and the great memories.'