TRIBUTES have been pouring in from friend and 'foe' after John Mullane's retirement from inter-county hurling, while Waterford boss Michael Ryan insists the county captaincy issue was not a factor in the five-time All Star's bombshell departure.
"We're good friends and it was a good, honest chat," said Ryan, who met Mullane for an hour on Wednesday evening before being informed of the player's decision by phone yesterday.
"John outlined where he was at and I respect that. He's a married man with a family and is keen to do other things, and after 12 years with Waterford he owes the county nothing.
"I know people will probably mention the Waterford captaincy. I can say that had nothing to do with his decision to retire."
Mullane, who turns 32 later this month, is bowing out at the top having won four of his All Stars in the last four seasons. His exit has prompted inevitable fears that fellow veteran Tony Browne, 40 next summer, could follow his lead. "We'll meet Tony this weekend and have a chat to see what his plans are," Ryan outlined.
The Waterford boss, who also managed Mullane at club level with De La Salle, described him as an "outstanding player" and "great man" in the dressing-room, adding: "Not too many players pick up five All Star awards having played only one All-Ireland final. John had a scoring average of 3.5 points from play in recent years - an incredible achievement."
Opponents have also sung his praises, with Tipperary defender Pádraic Maher recalling on Twitter how Mullane "terrorised us both club and county", while Limerick's Gavin O'Mahony tweeted: "F#€k Lance (Armstrong), we should be celebrating a hero like John Mullane, most consistent hurler of last 10 years."