The recent retirements of Eddie Brennan and P.J. Ryan were not particularly surprising, but their departure sees two wonderful servants of Kilkenny hurling depart a stage that they have graced for many years.
P.J. Ryan spent a long apprenticeship in the shadows of James McGarry, and when his big chance arrived he took over seamlessly from the former Bennettsbridge star.
The highlight will always be the All-Ireland final of 2009 when the Fenians (Johnstown) player gave a heroic display against a superb Tipperary attack.
The All-Ireland four-on-a-row success would not have been achieved without the bravery and athleticism of P.J. Ryan. It was his finest moment in the black and amber and saw him deservedly win the man of the match award.
How ironic that a few months later he should capture an All-Star award, something that eluded his former colleague McGarry. Both men, though, were All-Stars in the minds of every Kilkenny supporter.
Defenders everywhere will be glad to see the back of Eddie Brennan. For years all they ever saw was his back as he glided past them at breathtaking speed to grab or make a score. After 12 years on the Kilkenny panel Eddie has earned his rest.
With a ninth All-Ireland medal a decided prospect in 2011, it would have been an easy decision for Brennan to stay on for one more year and have a go for a unique ninth Celtic cross, but circumstances dictated otherwise.
The Graigue Ballycallan star leaves the inter-county scene at the top. After many superb performances in the 2011 National Hurling League he had every reason to be disappointed with so little game time in the championship.
That was until the All-Ireland final when he played a major role in Kilkenny’s success. He truly lived up to his ‘Fast Eddie’ tag in the second half to set up Richie Hogan for the goal that decided the game.
Not for the first time all the defenders could do was follow in vain as he majestically raced through the Tipperary defence. We were not to know that the 2011 All-Ireland final would be Eddie Brennan’s last outing with Kilkenny, but what a wonderful way to bid farewell to a jersey that he has filled with distinction!
Defenders everywhere will rest a little easier in 2012 with Brennan’s retirement. The baton is now passed to another player to continue tormenting opposing rearguards.
Thanks to two wonderful hurlers and great ambassadors for Kilkenny hurling for helping to bring so much glory and enjoyment to the county’s supporters everywhere.