Rory Kavanagh this week admitted that opting to retire from inter-county football after being involved for 14 years was “the hardest decision” he ever had to make.
The 32-year-old midfielder, who is the first player to retire from Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland winning match-day panel, yesterday confirmed his intention to step aside to The Donegal Democrat.
“Between family and work I don’t feel as though I can give it a full commitment and I’m not someone who would want to take things on half-heartedly,” Kavanagh said.
Kavanagh teaches in Scoil Colmcille in Letterkenny and he and his wife Kathryn got married in 2011 and have a baby daughter Zoe, who will turn one later this month.
“I spoke with my family and Kathryn after 2012 and then again last year,” Kavanagh added.
“I made my mind up before last season that it would be my last.
“I was comfortable with that all through and although the season ultimately ended in disappointment having lost the All-Ireland final to Kerry, the decision to stay for one last year is certainly not something I regret.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about my future since and deciding to retire has been the hardest decision I ever had to make.”
Kavanagh made his senior inter-county debut in the 2001 National Football League against Cork in Ballyshannon.
He first appeared in the championship in June 2002, as a substitute for Brian Roper, when Down were defeated 3-12 to 1-6 in Ballybofey in the Ulster quarter-final.
It took until 2006 for a first championship start to materialise. Down were again the opposition and Kavanagh rewarded manager Brian McIver with a match-winning goal in Donegal’s 1-12 to 1-11 win.
“There have been so many people that have helped me along the way and I’d like to thank them,” Kavanagh said. “Mickey Moran took a chance on me when I was very young and gave me my championship debut, Brian McEniff was a great help, while Brian McIver gave me a first championship start and John Joe Doherty made me county captain in 2009.
“The medical staff were always great to me because I spent plenty of time on their tables! And I’ve always had support from everyone at St Eunan’s, as well as my family, friends and Kathryn.”
In all, Kavanagh represented Donegal on 132 occasions; 49 of which were in the championship, where he scored 4-41 - with goals against Down (2006), Monaghan (2007), Cork (2009) and Cavan (2011).
Only Colm McFadden (56), Christy Toye (53), Karl Lacey and Michael Hegarty (50) have featured for Donegal more times in the championship.
In terms of total appearances, Kavanagh sits in 10th place behind Brian Roper (159), Colm McFadden (155), Matt Gallagher (147), Martin McHugh (138), Brendan Dunleavy (137),Adrian Sweeney and Christy Toye (136), Donal Reid (135) and Gary Walsh (133).
With Donegal, Kavanagh won the 2011, 2012 and 2014 Ulster championships under Jim McGuinness, as well as lifting Sam Maguire in 2012.
He also helped Donegal to the National Football League Division One title in 2007 under McIver and his first triumph under McGuinness was the Allianz League Division Two title in 2011.
“I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it,” Kavanagh said of his term in office. “The four years under Jim were just an amazing journey and gave us all memories that we will never ever forget. At one stage a few years before that you’d never have thought there was an All-Ireland in us!”
In November, Kavanagh captained St Eunan’s to the RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC championship after the 0-9 to 0-6 win over Glenswilly - it was his sixth time winning the Dr Maguire Cup following St Eunan’s victories in 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.
“I’ll still be playing with St Eunan’s and am looking forward to the new season with them,” Kavanagh continued. “That’s where it started and I will continue to be involved and hope to do well there.”
The news of Kavanagh’s retirement from inter-county football will come as a blow for new Donegal manager Rory Gallagher, who was McGuinness’s assistant from 2011 to 2013, ahead of the Allianz League Division One opener against Derry on Saturday, January 31.
“I wish Rory Gallagher and the new management team all the very best,” Kavanagh added.
“I’m very close to the group of players and will continue to be. They’re a strong group and are one of the top teams in the country.
“It’s been a pleasure to play with that group of players and I wish them every continued success with our county.”