DAVID Lombard has no regrets about hanging up his rugby boots after 24 years with Clonakilty.
The last remaining playing link to the Clon team that won AIB All-Ireland League Division 3 title in May 2006 – after a 19-12 win against Suttonians at Lansdowne Road – has called time on his playing days.
Importantly, he has gone out on his own terms.
Years of wear and tear took its toll on Lombard, who was player/coach the past two seasons with the Clon juniors. At 31 years of age his body told him stop – and he listened.
‘I was thinking about this for the past two seasons, to be honest,’ Lombard admitted.
‘The body just gets that bit older and even though you might only be 29 or 30, all the knocks and bruises catch up with you at some stage.
‘It was even at the point that on a Monday after a game when I was at work (at O’Leary Insurance in Bandon), when I was going up the stairs I’d have to go up sideways and grab onto the railing, which is not ideal ...
‘All those years of playing senior rugby were taking its toll. I made my debut for Clon seniors when I was 18 so I was suffering from over ten years of constant contact – that’s a lot of impact on the knees and the legs.
‘In the last two years I played around ten games in total out of a possible 30.
‘To be honest too, a lot of the love for the game went when we got relegated to junior a few years ago. I haven’t enjoyed playing for the last couple of years, to be fair. That’s no disrespect to the junior league but when the enjoyment goes, it’s time to call it quits.’
In 2013 Clonakilty were relegated from the senior ranks to the junior ranks, after 12 seasons in the All-Ireland League, and that was a blow to the club and players like Lombard who had soldiered with Clon in the good days, but there were plenty of good times too; winning the Division 3 final in ’06 stands out.
Lombard was the last man standing from that team, the last remaining playing link still involved before he decided to retire from playing. Mike Keohane played a bit last season and while Alfie Harte is involved in coaching with the Clon juniors this season, it really is the end of an era.
A personal highlight for Lombard was winning his first cap with the Ireland U18 club team away against Italy, and for a spell in the noughties the talented centre was a much-sought after player, but he continually pledged his future to Clon despite interest from more established clubs in the top tier of the All-Ireland League.
‘I could have left a couple of times but I always stayed. It’s been enjoyable, I’ve loved my time with Clon, it never felt it was the right move to leave at any point. I started with Clon when I was seven and I was a one-club man,’ explained Lombard, who lives in Dunmanway with his wife Elaine.
Name-checking Alfie and Lenny Harte, Derek and Paul Dillon, Joe and Eddie Knowles, Danny Whelton, Mike Keohane, Declan (player/coach in 2006 when Clon won Division 3) and Ray Coppinger as some of the top players he lined out with during his time with Clon, Lombard is keen to continue coaching.
With two years as player/manager under his belt, and one season as an assistant manager before that, the former Clon centre is now the backs coach for the Munster women’s team. He was asked to come on board by coach Wayne Falvey, who played with Clon in the past. They both undertook an IRFU Level 2 Head Coach course in Johnstown last year, and afterwards Falvey contacted Lombard to see if he was interested in coming on board with the Munster team.
‘I am still coaching but I don’t miss the playing side of things, which is a good thing. If I thought I’d miss it I probably wouldn’t have called it a day,’ he explained.
‘Coaching with Munster keeps me involved in rugby without the full-time commitment of three, four nights a week.
‘I have coaching qualifications, I enjoy it and it’s something I want to keep at. Being involved with the Munster women is ideal because it’s short-term.
‘We’re preparing for the interpros in December; our first game is away on December 3rd against Ulster. It’s very enjoyable, it’s a complete change. It’s a very professional set-up, it’s refreshing and for me after 25 years it’s no harm to be part of a different environment.’
As for the future, Lombard feels Clon – who survived a relegation score last season – are on the right road under new coach Steve Jones, but he cautioned that getting out of the junior ranks will take time as Division 1 is extremely competitive.
For now, Lombard is enjoying his new lease of life and the extra freedom outside rugby.
‘It’s perfect. No more aches and pains on Sundays and Mondays, no more ice baths, and a lot to look forward to,’ he added, content with his decision to call it a day.