11 Dec, 16:22
Anticipation is building in the Munster camp ahead of the second half of the crucial Heineken Cup double-header against Perpignan.
In the course of a career that started in September 2005, the Kilkenny native won 97 competitive caps and played in both the 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup finals and won a Magners League medal in 2009.. He would have added greatly to that final total but for injury in 2007 and last season when he was stretchered off in the Heineken Cup quarter final game against Northampton at Thomond Park Stadium.
It was a knee injury on that occasion that forced him to miss the rest of the season and he was only playing in his third competitive game that September day when he sustained the hip injury, four minutes into the game, that would ultimately end his career.
The hugely popular member of the squad made his debut in the Magners League game against Lllanelli Scarlets in Musgrave Park and ended his first season with 15 caps and a Heineken Cup winners medal having played in the quarter, semi and final of that competition.
A try scorer in the 2008 quarter final win over Gloucester at Kingsholm he won his second Heineken Cup medal lining out on the wing against Toulouse and a year later won the first of his two international caps against Canada on Ireland's summer tour of North America.
Dowling informed his teammates of his decision ahead of training in CIT this morning and afterwards although admitting he was "gutted" to be ending his career spoke more of the highlights of his six seasons with Munster. "It's been a fabulous experience. I've made some great friends and take with me really great memories, the two Heineken Cup wins obviously the highlights. But besides that, I've had wonderful times with Munster."
"In fairness I've received all the help and assistance I could have asked for from the Munster medics and I'm hugely appreciative of all the time and effort they've put in trying to get me back. We've explored every avenue possible but in the end I know this is the right decision, the only one really."
In the course of his efforts to recover from the hip injury, the 28 year old sensibly made provision for a day of reckoning he knew might arrive and has been engaged in a degree course in Physiotherapy in UL. "I'd have to say I'm excited about this new direction. A lot of the skills that I needed to bring to professional rugby are transferable to what I'm doing now."
"But again I have to thank the course director who has been so supportive in facilitating my studies while I was also rehabbing this injury."
"I've been fortunate really. I had a great career as a professional rugby player. Enjoyed success with Munster. Got to travel the world. And am lucky now to be in the position I'm in with a new career hopefully beckoning."
"But there is a lesson here for all those looking to follow a pro rugby path. It can end abruptly. Keep that in your mind if you're sitting in a classroom with only dreams of playing in Thomond Park." says the holder of an Honours Sports Science Degree (UL).
"I'd like to thanks all those who have supported me in my career, the coaches, fitness guys, all involved with Munster and Ireland and close friends with particular thanks to my parents John and Kitty, sister Catriona and girlfriend Gill who were always there for me in good times and bad."
"And finally, to the Munster fans, the best in the world, my heartfelt thanks for the part you played in making mine such a memorable career."