Tipperary hurling is preparing for life after Lar Corbett after he caused a sensation on Monday night by announcing his retirement from the inter-county game.
The star forward is understood to have contacted his team-mates by text and called in person to the Clonoulty home of manager Declan Ryan to explain his decision, which has sent shockwaves throughout the hurling world.
Shortly before midnight on Monday Declan Ryan and his management team made a statement though County Board PRO Ger Ryan, saying “We very much regret that Lar Corbett has told us he is withdrawing from the Tipperary Senior Hurling panel due to him being unable to give 100% commitment because of business and work pressures. Lar’s importance and value to the Tipperary hurling team are immeasurable and the door will remain open to him for a return to the panel if his circumstances change”.
It now remains to be seen if the 30 year-old can be persuaded to change his mind after turning his back on one of the most glittering careers in Gaelic games in recent times. Unquestionably, his retirement represents a blow to Tipperary’s prospects of regaining the All-Ireland title this year.
He won his first All-Ireland Senior medal in 2001, as a team mate of Declan Ryan and current coach Tommy Dunne, when he scored two points in the final against Galway.
However his finest hour in a Tipp jersey came in the All-Ireland Final two years when he scored a hat-trick of goals as Tipp won the McCarthy Cup for the first time in 10 years and dashed Kilkenny’s bid for the five-in-a-row. His last appearance for Tipp was in last year’s All-Ireland Final, when he was held scoreless as Tipp were beaten by Kilkenny. Earlier in the season he scored 4-4 from play when the team destroyed Waterford in the Munster Final. His championship haul of 7-9 was good enough to earn him a third All Star award last year.
Corbett was named in the Munster interprovincial squad for the recent Breast Cancer challenge in Nenagh against a Tipperary selection, when he appeared as a substitute.
He had yet to return to training with the county panel this year, which wouldn’t be considered particularly unusual for one of the county’s more experienced players. But the timing of Monday night’s announcement has caught everyone off guard.
There was no indication of the bombshell that was about to be dropped when Tipp beat University of Limerick in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal Cup at Nenagh on Saturday, a win that has earned them a semi-final date with Cork in Clonmel next Sunday as they prepare for the opening match of the National League against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park at the end of this month.
Electrifying pace and a deadly scoring ability were the hallmarks of Corbett’s game, attributes that didn’t appear to have been diminished even as he approached the twilight of his inter-county career. It has been generally acknowledged that, fitness-wise, he had at least a couple of more years left at the highest level of the game.
He was called up to the County Senior panel as a 19 year-old by then manager Nicky English in 2000 and made his championship debut the following year against Clare.
Since then he has scored 26 goals and 67 points in a championship career that illuminated the sport over the past decade.
An electrician by trade, he took over the management of Coppinger’s pub in his home town Thurles last year. It’s understood he will continue to line out with Thurles Sarsfields.
Lar Corbett’s exploits on the pitch won him the admiration of hurling followers everywhere, especially in Tipperary, where he had earned folk hero status. The band Johnny B and The Boogie Men wrote and performed a song, ‘Lar Outside’ in his honour.
The disappointment and shock felt by Tipperary supporters was summed up by tributes left on The Nationalist’s Facebook page. In one of those tributes Mel Pyke from Clonmel said she was “devastated” while Geraldine Griffin Ryan was “distraught”.