Browne not ready to call it a day yet
Veteran could be back for 2011, writes Colm Keys
Hurling's Peter Pan is not quite ready to bring the curtain down on the longest career in the inter-county game.
Waterford veteran Tony Browne denied reports yesterday that he had called time on his 19-year association with the Decies.
Instead, he will wait a number of months before making a decision on whether or not to press ahead with a 20th campaign with the county.
Browne's remarkable form for Waterford in this year's championship will bring him to the brink of another Vodafone All Star -- he is vying for the right-half-back berth with Tommy Walsh next month -- having gathered the fourth Munster title of his career in July.
There was wide expectation that 37-year-old Browne would retire at the end of this season.
Dan Shanahan has already confirmed he would not be continuing as a Waterford player in 2011 after spending most of the season on the bench.
But Browne revealed yesterday that he will wait until December at the earliest to decide on the prospect of a 20th season and adding to his 57 championship appearances to date.
"It's the same as last year. I won't rush into any decision. I'll wait until December and maybe then I'll decide to play on for a 20th season," he said.
Browne is easily inter-county hurling's longest serving player, having made his debut in 1992 against Limerick in the Munster championship. He missed the embarrassing 1993 defeat to Kerry, but was back in '94 and has been a consistent presence ever since, operating between midfield and half forward.
Only Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins, who made his debut in 1995, comes close with Browne's Mount Sion colleague Ken McGrath, Sean Og O hAilpin and Dublin's Kevin Flynn among those who began their careers in 1996.
"I've always that I feel fitter in my mid-30s than I did when I was in my mid-20s. I've always said that the day I begin to struggle to recover after games, is the day I'll give it up but this year I recovered well," said Browne.
His longevity in the modern game is quite astonishing and since establishing himself in the mid-1990s on the Waterford team, he hasmissed only one match -- the 2004 Munster semi-final win over Tipperary.
Browne delivered some towering performances for Waterford this summer, particularly the second halves against Clare and Cork in the replay, when he defied his years and showed remarkable reserves of fitness.
Earlier this year Browne was one of six players whom Davy Fitzgerald deliberately sat out for the early rounds of the league. Browne, Ken McGrath, Dan Shanahan, Eoin Murphy, John Mullane and Seamus Prendergast had specific gym programmes devised and worked through them in the earlier part of the season.
Browne hailed Fitzgerald's man- management of the veterans as one of the main reasons why he opted to play on in 2010.
"I had a few injuries and as the season wore on I probably felt the benefit of that break," he insisted.
In an interview with this newspaper in May, however, he stressed that he wouldn't be hurling with Waterford as a 38-year-old.
He insisted that 2010 would definitely be his last year and felt that the draw had offered Waterford a great chance of reaching a Munster final as they were pitted against Clare in the semi-final.
But Browne stressed yesterday that he was "feeling good" and was happy with the season he's had.
He said speculation about his future has cropped up consistently over the last few years as he pushes into his late 30s.
"I'd like to think I keep myself in good shape. I eat the right foods. I work hard in the gym. I'll be keeping my options open over the winter and maybe I will make it a record 20th season."
Browne expressed the hope that Fitzgerald will continue on for a fourth championship season, but whether or not Fitzgerald will be at the helm or not remains to be seen. He is so far undecided with personal overtures from Waterford chairman Tom Cunningham already made public.
The Waterford Board are due to meet on Monday night next when the topic of the senior team management is sure to be on the agenda.
Waterford hurling has enjoyed a significant renaissance during Browne's career that have taken him to eight All-Ireland semi-finals.
Hurling has become the No 1 game in the county and particularly the city where three clubs -- his own Mount Sion, Ballygunner and De La Salle -- thrive. That as much as anything may yet be his legacy.
Meanwhile, reports that Kilkenny pair Michael Kavanagh and James Ryall have retired have also been denied by Kilkenny County Board.
Kavanagh, who collected his 12th Leinster championship medal this year, didn't play a minute of any of Kilkenny's four championship games, while Ryall, who replaced Brian Hogan in the All-Ireland semi-final, has been around for almost a decade.
But Kilkenny officials are adamant that no decision on the players' futures have been conveyed to them.