Corbett leaves Tipp in state of shock
It seems implausible that a man who made the Munster final his own private property last July should walk away from inter-county hurling.
But that was the stark reality sending tremors across the hurling landscape last night as Declan Ryan and his Tipperary management team came to terms with Lar Corbett's decision to retire. I understand the Thurles Sarsfields man spoke to Ryan for almost two hours yesterday at the manager's home in Clonoulty before circulating a text to team-mates, announcing his departure.
The reasons behind Corbett's extraordinary decision, just six months after scoring a breathtaking 4-4 from play against Waterford in the provincial final, were not immediately apparent last night.
In a brief telephone conversation last week, he told this writer how much he was "looking forward to getting stuck back into training", having just returned from a three-week holiday in Australia during which he attended a friend's wedding.
I had phoned on foot of rumours, triggered by that holiday, that he was thinking of emigrating Down Under.
Corbett was one of three members of the Tipp team that foiled Kilkenny's five-in-a-row bid in 2010 who appeared on a subsequent 'Late Late Show' revealing the fact that they were all unemployed.
He has, since, taken over management of a pub in Thurles, but it is known that he has long been concerned about the need to forge what he considers a viable career path.
Members of the Tipp panel are currently required to train five nights a week and the 30-year-old 2010 Hurler of the Year, who recently got engaged to his girlfriend Elaine, may simply have found the commitment overpowering.
Yet, Corbett's decision comes as a thunderbolt to the beaten All-Ireland finalists as he has been, arguably, the most electrifying forward in hurling this past three years. He famously scored a hat-trick of goals against Kilkenny in the 2010 All-Ireland final and his personal Championship haul in 2011 was a remarkable 7-9, good enough to earn him a third All Star.
Corbett did not hurl underage for Tipp, but made the senior county panel as a 19-year-old under the tenure of Nicky English and was on the team that won that year's All-Ireland in 2001.
His early inter-county career was hampered by recurring hamstring problems and he really only found his best form under Liam Sheedy.
Since then his performances have, consistently, been breathtaking.
It is known that some players found the transition from Sheedy's intense style of management to Ryan's more laid-back approach a mite disconcerting, yet Tipp looked to be taking everything in their stride last year until out-gunned by a stoked-up Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final.
Corbett had an anonymous game and was left deeply frustrated at being held scoreless by Jackie Tyrrell.
That said, there had been little indication that a man who has scored 26 Championship goals for Tipp, was considering his future. He did pick up a minor injury in training last week, but it was thought to be of little consequence.
Corbett was named in the Munster interprovincial squad for the recent challenge match against a Tipperary selection in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland and he made an appearance off the bench.
One insider admitted last night: "Lar has always been a bit of a free spirit who very much has his own mind, but I can honestly say nobody saw this coming. We are all absolutely devastated. Everyone is in a state of shock."
It is thought the Tipp management were reluctant to force the issue yesterday, but hope some form of resolution might be attainable in the coming weeks.
In his text, seen by the Irish Independent last night, Corbett explained to Tipp's other panel members that he "cannot give the 100pc commitment that is required" for the coming season.
He texted "Well lads, I'm sorry to say that I have withdrawn from the Tipp panel. I know this may come as a shock but, after careful consideration, I know that I cannot give the 100pc commitment that is required.
"I did not want to give this news by text but I could not ring everyone. I hope my decision will not affect the friendships I have made over the years.
"This decision was one of the hardest yet. I do not have all of the panel members' numbers so can you please pass on as I want you, the players, to be the first to know. I look forward to the second Sunday in September when I will be shouting on the players and the team I love. Larry."
Tipp, who begin their National League campaign later this month against Kilkenny, got the most difficult draw imaginable for this year's Munster Championship, drawn in a preliminary round game against Limerick, with the winners due to face Cork.
If Ryan cannot now persuade Corbett to reconsider, Tipp's summer odds look certain to lengthen appreciably. And one of the most spine-tingling sights in hurling will be confined to memory.