Top pundit Byrne outlines his retirement from rugby issues
With Shane Horgan and Mick O’Driscoll both recently announcing their retirements they would have done well to listen to a documentary on LMFM last night on former Leinster and Ireland prop-forward Emmet Byrne’s struggles post-retirement.
A part-time pundit and in his final year of study to become a doctor at the Royal College of Surgeons, Byrne outlined his difficulties following retirement.
"You're thinking about retirement well before it happened, I knew I needed to do something post rugby and that was in my mind for the last two to three years of my career.... After that time when I finished, when I walked away from the game I didn't watch my lifestyle and I started feeling down and then the reality set in," said the man capped over 100 times for Leinster.
Speaking ahead of the documentary, Byrne who has been widely lauded as a pundit for Setanta, RTE and Newstalk said that he was reluctant at first to become a pundit, "My parents said ‘why don't you go on the dole now that you're retired.’ This was weeks after I retired I said ‘look I'm not going to do it. I couldn't see myself signing on.’ They said ‘you worked for ten or twelve years so why not just do it?’
So I was driving with my father to Dun Laoghaire to sign on and the phone rang and it was the producers at Setanta Sports. They said ‘you've recently retired would you be interested in doing some media work with us.’ I said ‘no’, I don't think I would be any good at that and I put the phone down. I could feel my father burning a hole through me thinking, ‘you're an idiot I'm driving you to the dole office and you're turning down work’.”
Luckily Byrne’s cerebral analysis wasn’t lost on a rugby public crying out for a more insightful reading of the modern game. “A hundred yards down the road I did 180 and thought, I wish I could call the guy back. Luckily enough he called back a few days later and I ended up with the ultimate part time job. I was lucky though.”
Byrne said his decision on deciding to study medicine was a more methodical one, "When I retired I wrote down everything I thought I could do, I put down every practical thing; fireman pilot, businessman. I started whittling them down, putting a red line through them. Until I had three or four left, but I kept coming back to medicine. I wasn't guaranteed to get in. So applied, jumped through all the hoops and I got in. In a few months I was sitting in my first lecture."
Saliently Byrne outlined a problem for many rugby players who may be considering retiring from the game, "I haven't found anyone within my close circle of friends, who are professional rugby players, who haven't struggled in some way or form once they retired."
Fortunately as Mike Ross outlined in a recent JOE interview a lot of players are beginning to wake up to this reality.