Wednesday 21 March 2018

Shane Jennings: I had to think of the bigger picture

‘It is a great life but it can be cruel as well,’ admits Shane Jennings who announced plans to retire at the end of the season
‘It is a great life but it can be cruel as well,’ admits Shane Jennings who announced plans to retire at the end of the season
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It won't be the long, drawn-out goodbye that Brian O'Driscoll had but Shane Jennings' farewell will be bittersweet for Leinster fans after the 33-year-old yesterday announced his decision to retire at the end of the season.

The three-time European Cup winner remained remarkably composed when addressing the assembled media but as he revealed, it was a decision that was a long time coming.

Jennings has always been his own man and, as long as he could help it, he was always going to go out on his own terms.


"It's been occupying so much mind space, in reality for a couple of years, because of injuries I have in my knees," he said.

"You don't know if you are in control of that and you might have to retire. You have to look at the bigger picture. You have to be realistic about the situation.

"I honestly don't know what it's going to be like come the end of June when everybody will be going back to pre-season and I'm not.

"I'm sure that will be a shock to the system. There are obviously going to be difficult times ahead."

Jennings' realistic outlook has been one of the main reasons why he has carved himself such a successful 13-year career.

In between two spells with Leinster, he made 60 appearances for Leicester Tigers in a two-year stint, in which time he won a Premiership title before returning to his home province.

The decision to announce his retirement at this point of the season felt right and Jennings has always gone with his gut instinct.

The abrasive back-row won 13 Ireland caps, playing at the 2011 World Cup - he was perhaps unlucky not to have made a lot more international appearances.

His work with IRUPA as well his undertaking of a Business Studies degree means that he is more prepared than most for life after rugby, as he explained.

"Unfortunately, I had an epiphany a few years ago when I saw a former rugby player. I said: 'My God, I don't want to be that guy.' He wasn't prepared. He was struggling," he said.

"Players have to realise that this is the reality of the game. It is a great, great life. It's a big business and it's a great game.

"But, it can be cruel as well. You've got to prepare yourself for it.

"It was a huge moment for me to realise that I really had to think of the bigger picture."

The fierce competition in the Leinster back-row did contribute to his decision to call it a day but Jennings is perfectly happy to step aside and allow the younger crop to have their time.

But such is his competitive nature, that won't happen until the end of the season.

"I'm not saying I'm like a big-headed old rugby player, but I used to be the top of those sprints and I used to be at the top of the fitness and I'm not any more," he conceded.

"But you're also talking to a guy that wants to be number one as well as the younger guys, and you're also talking to a fella that's had success and wants more success.

"I know I have to be on my game if I want to be selected. It's going to be like that until the end of the year. Everyone wants to be knocking on Matt O'Connor's door, giving him a headache to be picked.

"I think there is definitely a generation gap in terms of the guys who have come through, like there was when I came into the squad.

"You're in a time warp or an age bubble where you are in school every day messing and taking the p**s out of each other.


"When lads are on their phone 24 hours a day tweeting things and putting stuff on Instagram, I'm kind of going, okay, I'm a little different to these guys.

"That's the way it is. If that's what people are enjoying, that's great. If everybody was like me, life would be pretty boring.

"It was part of my decision as well. You realise you've had a good time and it's time for them to enjoy it."

His decision has been made and for now Jennings is happy to get back to letting his rugby do the talking until it is time for a new start.

Having already surpassed the 200 appearance barrier for Leinster, the focus is purely on silverware and going out on a high, just like two of his old team-mates did last season.

"Everyone wants a fairytale or Cinderella story or whatever you want to call it," he said.

"Listen, I'm not Brian O'Driscoll and I'm not Leo Cullen. There's not going to be the big send-off."

The Leinster supporters might have something to say about that.

Irish Independent

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