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'I don't want to be a sad ex-player who still hangs around' -- Jerry Flannery

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Jerry Flannery has said that he was hoping to relaunch his career even after his World Cup dream was shattered, but it became clear over the past few months that that was not going to happen and he was left with no choice but to retire as a professional rugby player.

The 33-year-old has spent the past few seasons battling with a calf injury in his left leg. He told a press conference in Limerick yesterday that while retiring was a tough decision to make, he was quite pragmatic about it.

"I had the operation before the World Cup and I got through a couple of games in the build-up to the World Cup and played the first game," Flannery said. "I thought I was out of the woods at that stage and I was really relishing tagging another three or four years onto the end of my career.

"When I broke down, I came back and it hasn't been coming around for me. Last season I was starting to get quite bitter, I broke down again during the Six Nations last year training with the lads and I found it very hard.

"I wasn't getting too much return for the amount of effort I was putting into it. I thought I might have to retire. I was really worried that I'd spend 25 years of my life playing a game and end up retiring and being angry with it."

battled

He battled to regain fitness and Declan Kidney, who had worked with him since he was a schoolboy, had no hesitation in bringing him to New Zealand for the World Cup.

"When I got to the World Cup I was delighted and it was a really good experience. Then when I came home after breaking down, I said I'd give it another go as I felt I had nothing to lose really.

"I have been working hard on it the last six months and I don't really find it's getting any better.

"I started testing it again at Christmas. I went and saw a specialist in Germany in November. There was a build-up period before they started testing in December, and in late December I was thinking that this thing is not really working at all.

"You keep working at something but I didn't want to get to that stage where I got really bitter at rugby again. That's why after talking with the medical staff they just said, 'it doesn't seem to be coming around.' Unfortunately I have had to retire. It's not a decision taken lightly."

His time dealing with injuries has cushioned him somewhat for the impact of retirement as he brings the curtain down on a career that saw him win a Grand Slam during his 41 Irish caps, two Heineken Cups from his 93 appearances for Munster and appearances in two World Cups.

But it is the week-to-week stuff which, he says, he will miss most.

"What I love about rugby is that you work so hard during the week and then you have that period at the weekend when you get tested, you play your game and then you sit there with your mates afterwards in the dressing-room and say, 'we did it' or, 'what have we got to do to do better next week?' And I love that feeling."

Flannery started a Masters in Sports Performance in January at the University of Limerick, but while that is where Munster train, he is anxious to see himself as 'Jerry Flannery the student' from now on.

Inevitably, a coaching career is mentioned and while he does not rule out returning to Munster in some capacity in the future, he feels he has other skills to hone first.

"Munster has been a huge part of my life, you can almost have it that your identity is engrained with Munster. You can get to a stage when you finish that you want to go and prove you can be successful without Munster, but if Munster is what is right for you there is no point in fighting that.

"I don't want to be one of those sad ex-players who leave but they are always hanging around training. You just move on. You have had your time in the jersey and you have done what you can there. You go and upskill yourself.

"I am not going to hang around Munster and say, 'is there any chance of a job?' or, 'can I come around and go on some of the away trips?' to just hang around and get my face on the telly. That's no good for anyone.

"You move on and do something else, so effectively I am a student now.

"I feel you have got to pay your dues with whatever you are doing. If I want to have a go at something, I want to give a good account of myself. So that's why I am concentrating on the books for now."

Irish Independent