'Big Dev' Toner announces retirement from rugby
The tallest player ever to tog out for Ireland, the 6’10, 127kg Meath man is hanging up his boots after his 16th season at Leinster, where he became the province’s record holder for appearances.
He has played 276 times to date.
The 35-year-old won 70 caps for Ireland, won three Six Nations winners’ medals and was a member of the 2018 Grand Slam winning side.
“There is never a right time I suppose and you would love to keep playing but I feel very lucky to have had the career that I have had and I am able to leave the sport that I love and the club that I love, in good health and on my own terms,” Toner, who is looking to spend more time with his family, told Leinsterrugby.ie. “I have been around the club for long enough to understand that not everyone is that lucky, and I feel that the time is right now to focus on that next chapter and of course, spending more time with Mary, with Max and with Grace. They, and Mary in particular, have put their lives on hold to enable me to perform and I couldn’t have done it without them. So now it’s about them and us all enjoying more time together.”
Toner paid tribute to North Kildare, Castleknock College, Lansdowne and the many ‘great coaches, volunteers, teachers’ that helped him along the way.
“I am very grateful for all that they did for me. In particular, my old coach, the great Mick Quinn, who made me realise I could become a professional rugby player.
“That laid the foundation and then it was about building on it and I can’t speak highly enough of the environment that we have in Leinster Rugby and the coaches, the medics and backroom staff and all the teammates that I have had along the way.”
“There have been some special moments with Ireland and the Grand Slam is obviously up there but also maybe the game against South Africa in Cape Town in 2016. Being able to acknowledge my dad so soon after passing was very special to me.
“There are highs and lows in every career and I am sure in time I’ll appreciate it all the more but I couldn’t have done it without the strength and support of my family and especially my mam, Anne, my dad Peter, and my siblings, Emma and Darragh. They have literally travelled the world to see me play and I am so grateful.
“It’s been brilliant and I have loved every minute of it but I am happy with my decision and I’m excited for what the future holds. I am very much looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life.
“Finally, I just want to acknowledge again my wife Mary and everything she has done. She has been there throughout my entire professional career and sacrificed a lot. I would not have been able to achieve half of what I have without her by my side.”
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said, “Big Dev has made an immense impact on Leinster and Irish rugby. I can still remember Devin when I first saw him play as an Irish Schoolboy against Wales in Donnybrook. What an outstanding career he has gone on to achieve since.
“I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to both play with and coach Devin and he has always been a pleasure to work with. He has been such a well-liked and respected member of the Leinster dressing room and his easy nature has allowed him to forge many strong relationships in the game.
“To have played nearly 350 games for your club and country and to have been part of so much success is testament to Devin’s dedication and consistency in his preparation. And in more recent times Devin has been a great mentor to some of Leinster’s younger players.
“We will miss Devin but we wish him, Mary and the kids only the very best for the future.”
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