LIMERICK senior hurling selector Ciaran Carey has spoken of his admiration for the two Limerick’s stalwarts who announced their inter-county retirements - Damien Reale and Donie Ryan.
“I would have soldiered with them for a few years at the end of my time,” Carey said this week.
“They will be sadly missed but the time comes for us all,” said Carey, who is a selector alongside John Kiely and Eamonn Meskell in John Allen’s management team for 2012.
“They had two very successful and long inter-county careers - Damien had a reputation of being on Limerick teams for the last decade, when he would have to be known as Mr consistency and Donie was a key forward and he was renowned for performing in big games and as a player he had an ability to manufacture a free or a score when needed.”
In the midst of his hat-trick of All-Ireland U-21 titles, Damien Reale made his Limerick senior debut against Cork in 2001.
Despite facing some of the best attacking talent in the country, the Hospital-Herbertstown man was never substituted in a championship game until this summer.
“I can remember Damien marking all the big players and I can think back to Eoin Kelly in those three matches against Tipperary in 2007,” recalled Carey.
Indeed with 37 championship appearances, only Mark Foley, Timmy Ryan, John Mackey, Mick Mackey, Eamonn Cregan, TJ Ryan and Ollie Moran have played more time for Limerick than Damien Reale.
Garryspillane’s Donie Ryan made his Limerick senior debut in 2002 against Tipperary
“They were unfortunate to be playing with Limerick when we didn’t win too many trophies - they didn’t win a lot but they gave their heart and soul for Limerick and that’s all you can ask,” said Carey.
“It’s a major decision for anyone to make,” said the Limerick selector of quitting inter-county hurling.
He added: “The way the GAA is evolving maybe they need to look into the major void that is left for players when they retire from inter-county hurling”.
“On behalf of management and all Limerick hurling supporters I would thank them for all their service - I would wish them the very best with their clubs and in their professional careers,” said Carey.
While Reale and Ryan had informed management of their decisions to retire in advance of confirmation of the 2012 hurling panel, the 29-man panel saw the omission of a new of long serving players. However, Carey said that anyone of them could yet force their way back into the plans.
“I wouldn’t call is the end for anyone else because the door isn’t closed to anyone - I don’t presume any inter-county career is over except Damien and Donie,” he said.
“If any player is shining for their club or college we will have a look - the panel is very open ended.”