end of era | 

'There's other things' - Donie Shine on a glittering career and a collision that changed everything

Donie Shine has retired from football at the age of 31 having battled for years with a knee problems, his club Clann na
nGael announced. Photo: Sportsfile

Donie Shine has retired from football at the age of 31 having battled for years with a knee problems, his club Clann na nGael announced. Photo: Sportsfile

Donnchadh Boyle

On a wet winter's night in Kilbride in 2006, Clann na nGael and Kilmore played out that year's Roscommon Junior 'B' final replay.

With the game almost done, someone approached the small pod of assembled media shivering under a makeshift shelter, seeking a name for the man-of-the-match award.

Donie Shine, the 17-year-old who only a couple of months earlier had starred as the county snaffled an unexpected All-Ireland minor title, was the game's outstanding performer. However, the award went elsewhere.

"He will win plenty," someone muttered of Shine. The logic was that much bigger and better things would come to the Clann na nGael youngster.

And this week, as player after player stepped off the inter-county merry-go-round, Shine stepped out of football for good. Between that Junior 'B' final and this week, that prediction was proved correct. Shine packed in plenty of bigger and better things than that night's man-of-the-match award. But he'd battled knee trouble for seven seasons. And at just 31, his time was done.

His club broke the news online, paying tribute to one of their best. There was some irony in the timing, given that Shine's knee trouble started with an accidental collision with Mayo's Donie Vaughan, who himself stepped away from county football this week.


"It was my right knee," Shine recalls. "I ran into Donal Vaughan who retired there I see. I collided with him in the air and whatever way he hit it ruptured my PCL, did cartilage damage and a few other things with it.

"I was in with Ray Moran (for operations) five times I'd say - clean-outs and cartilage repairs. Initially the recovery was tough enough and I'd issues trying to get back from it with swelling and stuff like that. The first season going back it didn't feel great but eventually as the quads strengthened up I was able to get on with it without it being in my head constantly.

"The pain would come and go as well as the issues with it. Lucky enough for a couple of seasons I got away with it fully, it wasn't really at me at all.

"And I'd say around 2016, '17 and '18 it wasn't too bad and then the odd time last year it was a major issue. I wasn't comfortable kicking the ball and locking my knee out, there were constant issues. So throughout the season last year it was in my head that it was too frustrating to do it and taking too much of a toll on the body. I was constantly injured and missing training so when I did get on the pitch, I wasn't in the shape I wanted to be in to contribute to what the team were doing.

"So I think I had a decision made during the season."

He finished up with Roscommon at 27, something that probably bought him more time to play for his club. The county game demanded such commitment that he wasn't sure the knee would stand up to it.

He loved every minute with Roscommon but simultaneously, when he stepped outside of the bubble, he could see how consuming it was.

"It's very difficult to give commitment to anything else. I find it amazing the likes of the Mayo players, some of whom have given 13 years up and down from Dublin. I think it is such a massive commitment.

"Obviously, they are a team that are competing for honours at a national level and have been in multiple All-Ireland finals, it is just a huge commitment. The levels of professionalism the set-ups are at now is huge. I enjoyed playing with Roscommon and was lucky to come in when there was a really good set-up in place and I got a lot of guidance along the way as well.

"Personally, I would have spent a lot of time travelling up and down doing free-taking practice with a guy called Mark Dowd who was a huge influence on my performances over the years. He spent hours and hours outside of the group sessions with me, practising frees and putting structure in place for that practice - practice I probably wouldn't have done on my own in such a structured manner. So I owe a lot to the people who were involved with all the Roscommon teams. And I'd a good club too. With great people."

He packed a lot into his time. That All-Ireland minor final replay win against Kerry in Ennis, that pitted him in direct opposition to Tommy Walsh, is a standout memory.

There was also his 10 points in the Connacht final in 2010 including a late free from the sideline. In a few short months, the Rossies had gone from slipping into the basement division to being kings of Connacht. It also meant he won Connacht medals at the three major grades. He also captained Clann to a county title in 2018, beating neighbours St Brigid's in the final.

So there are no regrets. No sense that a young man has been robbed of his last precious few years of playing football.

Only a sense of gratitude that he got to live out his dreams.

His earliest memories involve heading to Johnstown when his late father, Donie Snr was in charge of the club side.

From there, football remained the singular thread through every aspect of his life. And while he's been forced out early, on the whole the game has been good to him.

"It's been a good time. I've had a while to think about it so it's not with any regret (I finish up). There's other things, I've a young family, so there's other things that need a bit of attention. I'm big into golf too. I'll give that a bit of time too, hopefully!"

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