FORMER Munster rugby star, Ian Dowling, has spoken about the disappointment he still feels when he reflects on the province’s encounter with New Zealand in 2008.
This week marked the fifth anniversary of the game in which Munster came within minutes of a second shock victory over the All Blacks - 30 years after their first - but Dowling said he was still hurting after the defeat.
A Munster side missing 10 key players were leading 16-13 with minutes to go before a late Joe Rokocoko try saved the Kiwi’s blushes.
However, the former Munster winger looked critically at what might have been.
Dowling said: “I think about how close we came and could I have done better to stop that try. It is a disappointment.”
He felt Munster could have achieved much more on the night but he conceded that the effort, losing though it might have been, was a special occasion in the club’s history.
“The All Blacks game was special - and incredible considering that we were all just thrown together,” he smiled when he recalled what was one of the highs in his own career.
“It was one of those special things. How tight we were that day was incredible. It is another wonderful memory to look back on,” Dowling added.
Now retired after suffering a serious hip injury in 2010, Dowling admitted that he was reluctant to reflect upon his rugby career.
The Kilkenny man is now into the final six months of a physiotherapy course at the University of Limerick. Instead of looking back he is keen to look to the future.
“I want to own my own business that will cater for the elite athlete,” he said of his future plans.
“At the minute I just want to keep driving forward with this career. I have done nothing with it yet but I have some high hopes and ambitions for the job. At the minute, to stop and reflect on my rugby career will get me nowhere,” he added.
Dowling was acutely aware of the difficulties a professional rugby player faced after retirement. He believes his former Munster coach, Declan Kidney, helped him prepare and played a key role in encouraging him to develop a career away from rugby.
“In 2011 I started thinking that I really need to have something on the back burner,” Ian rervealed. “Deccie was always asking: “What are you doing outside of rugby?”
“I have seen lads just finish up and they are left in the lurch because the rugby world moves on and you are left wondering what to do. You have no time schedule any more. As a player you are told where to be and what to wear and have a routine.
“That is taken from you and some lads are not proactive,” Dowling said.
After 98 appearances for Munster and winning two caps with Ireland, Dowling admitted it was a scary thought having to end his playing career at the age of 28, but he remained positive that there was a bright future for him away from rugby.
“Hopefully, I’ll make something place special that all athletes can come to and know that they are going to get the treatment and standard of care that no other place can offer,” he said of his idea for a future business. “If I can get that I’ll be happy.”