David Corkery discusses leaving rugby behind and Johnny Sexton’s status as Ireland’s greatest player…

The word “retirement” can be defined in various ways, and its meaning depends on a person’s background and circumstances. In the context of professional athletes, especially those who retire at a relatively young age, the experience can be quite unique. It can be a challenging and unsettling transition, as one goes from being at the pinnacle of their sport to starting anew from scratch.

In the world of professional sports, where one’s daily life is structured and revolves around a demanding schedule, retirement can be particularly disorienting. Athletes often find that a substantial part of their identity is tied to their sports career, and the loss of that can be deeply impactful.

Fortunately, there have been significant changes in the way athletes prepare for life after retirement in recent years. Modern athletes are better equipped to handle this transition.

Recently, notable figures in rugby, such as Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls, and possibly Peter O’Mahony, have made the decision to retire. Their retirements have left Munster, Leinster, and Irish rugby as a whole in a somewhat weakened position. These players have had illustrious careers and deserve the privilege of retiring on their own terms. Their longevity in the sport, with each representing their country over a hundred times, is a testament to their off-field conduct and the sacrifices they’ve made.

In the demanding and highly competitive world of professional rugby, enduring hundreds of matches for both club and country is not merely a matter of luck; it is a result of dedication and commitment.

The recent loss to New Zealand was a bitter pill to swallow for these legendary players. Keith Earls, who hails from Limerick and had his father Ger as a guiding influence during his formative years, was destined to play for Munster. His journey, marked by determination and skill, demonstrates the rewards of resilience and hard work, and he should continue to contribute to the sport to inspire others.

Curtain call for Peter O'Mahony? Picture:INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Every athlete’s path to retirement is unique, and in Johnny Sexton’s case, it was widely known that his final appearance as a professional player would coincide with this year’s World Cup. Having achieved everything attainable in northern hemisphere rugby, his last remaining goal was to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy at the World Cup.

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