MUNSTER ARE SET to lose another of its golden, Heineken Cup-winning generation as Marcus Horan prepares to walk into the rugby sunset.
Horan announced this afternoon that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season. The news comes on the back of Peter Stringer’s decision to sign on with Bath for next season.
The announcement, made first of all to his colleagues ahead of training in CIT, will bring the curtain down on a career stretching back 14 seasons that saw him become Munster’s most-capped forward  while also winning 67 senior international caps.
Horan earned his first senior competitive cap in the Interprovincial series in August 1999 against Leinster and the first of his 84 Heineken Cup caps came later that season when he came on as a replacement for Peter Clohessy in Munster’s 32-10 win over Pontypridd at Thomond Park.
A Munster release reads, “His first Heineken Cup start came three weeks later in the exalted front company of Keith Wood and John Hayes in the historic first ever victory on French soil over Colomiers at Stade les Sept Derniers,
An indication of his burgeoning talent, his comfort at playing the second half of that game at tight-head after Hayes retired injured. He also deputised at 3 in the subsequent games, the return against Pontypridd after 23 minutes of the quarter-final against Stade Francais and again in the famous semi-final win over Toulouse in Bordeaux.”
Horan celebrates at the Millennium Stadium in 2009. (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)
The release continues, “He continued to serve his time to Peter Clohessy, sitting on the bench behind him in the 2000 and 2002 finals but when the 2002/03 season kicked off Horan was wearing the number 1 shirt and made it almost exclusively his own for the ensuing seven seasons playing a crucial role in Munster Heineken Cup successes of 2006 and 2008 as well as League honours in 2003 (Celtic) and 2010 (Magners).
“He won his first 6 Nations cap that 2002/03 season and was the starting loose-head in all of Ireland’s games when they claimed the Grand Slam in 2009.
“Acknowledged and respected as one of the finest loose-heads of his generation, his football skills still sees him remain one of Munster’s leading try scorers with 11 in the Heineken Cup out of a career total of 30.”
Team manager Niall O’Donovan was Munster forwards coach when Horan started. He commented, “I’ve known and been involved with Marcus since he was an 18 year old starting out with Shannon and subsequently with Munster and Ireland as well.
Throughout that time he conducted himself with dedication in a truly professional manner and in a Munster sense his contribution has been immense. He’s been a great team player, an exemplary squad member, an example to others.
“I understand how difficult it must be for Marcus to make this decision, it’s never an easy one, and it presents a challenge. But I’ve no doubt he’ll meet that challenge with the same courage he showed on countless occasion in the past both on and off the field.”
Horan with Denis Fogarty, Tomas O’Leary and John Hayes. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
It was business as usual for Horan today as he trained with the squad in CIT. Speaking after the session, he said, “It was a tough decision to make no question of that. But I’m happy giving the options presented to me, it was the right one for me and my family.
I’ve enjoyed my career no end and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. To that end I’d like to thank all those involved for helping me along the way be it at club provincial or international level. I could not have achieved what I did without the support of my family and I am grateful to them beyond words. I’m looking forward now to being able to spend a bit more time with them.
“Talking about support,” he added, “I have to mention the marvellous Munster supporters whose unwavering loyalty down the years was another huge factor in making my career so memorable. Fabulous people.”
What is your favourite Horan memory or moment?