Leinster and Ireland legend has hung up his boots but careers in media and law beckon, he tells Des Berry
SHANE HORGAN is caught between excitement at his new opportunities, and regret at how he has been forced to give up playing rugby.
After a sporting career weighing heavy with achievement, honours and, most importantly, medals, a serious knee injury has forced him to say goodbye to the game that he loves.
The Leinster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions wing savoured the winners' feeling for two Celtic Leagues (2002, 2008) and two Heineken Cups (2009, 2011) for his club over the span of a 13-year career.
There were also three Triple Crowns (2004, 2006, 2007) for Ireland, involvement in two World Cups in 2003 and 2007 and two test appearances off the bench for the Lions on their ill-fated tour to New Zealand in 2005.
For all that, there was the omission from the 2009 Grand Slam glory as Ulster's Tommy Bowe rose to prominence, and the sadness of unrealised potential at the World Cup in France.
It says everything about the man that fellow Leinster and Ireland colleague Rob Kearney referred to him as "the biggest team player" he had played with. Quite a compliment.
And quite a week it has been for Horgan.
"I have had some time to let it sink in. At the same time, there was a twinge of sorrow when it was made public on Wednesday," he said.
"What has tempered the pain of giving up has been the incredible support and good wishes that have streamed in over the last 36 hours. I am really touched by it."
The camaraderie of the dressing-room is something that every player struggles to overcome. The sense of bonding, of family, that is unique to team sports.
"It is the interaction on a daily basis that is difficult to replace. But rugby exists beyond the sport itself. That is brilliant. You do have a group of friends across a number of years that will stay in your life outside the game.
"I can see that with some of the lads who have already finished. It seems like we are dropping away one by one from the time when I started out.
"It is such an intrinsic part of my life.
"But my involvement will take a different form now. I am moving from the playing staff to the supporting staff of both Ireland and Leinster."
Where to now? "I finished up a Masters in Law in Trinity last year. I've done a little bit of work in the area, including giving a 'guest lecture' to the undergraduate class. Hopefully, it will be an area I will look into in the future."
Already, Horgan has been dipping his toe into the media world, presenting a fresh face on RTE television, and surveying his options on a wider scale.
"I must admit I had some trepidation when I first dipped my toe.
"I really enjoyed doing it for the World Cup. I was part of something familiar and again for the Six Nations.
"As a rugby player, you want to move on and do the next thing straight away because every year you've got goals to achieve," he said.
"Sometimes you need to take a step back, be careful and evaluate what you are going to do. It is important to take the next few months to figure out what the right path is."