One of Connacht's longest serving players, Keith Matthews, has been forced to retire due to injury.
The 29-year-old centre ruptured his Achilles during the captains run before Connacht's clash against the Cardiff Blues in April, just 13 days after earning his 100th cap for the Province.
"I had never really thought I'd be a professional rugby player, I went through schools and didn't make the Munster Schools team so never really thought of it as a career. It wasn't until I was in first year college in UL studying Computer Engineering that I made the Irish U19's and pushed on from there, playing with Munster's Under-21 for two years and with Ireland U21 in my final year of college. After that I was in the Irish Academy and it was then that I started thinking there might be a future in it and I got a development contract with Munster.
"When I finished college Brads [Michael Bradley] offered me a spot in Connacht and I jumped at the opportunity to play regularly. When I first came to Connacht there were only a couple of guys that are still involved here now such as John Muldoon and Michael Swift.
"Connacht have come on leaps and bounds in the last 7 seasons, it's brilliant to see, all the facilities are second to none and to have everything on one site is great. There's been loads of memorable moments down through the years but beating Munster here in the Sportsground in '07 stands out as one of the best. Captaining Connacht last Christmas was another huge honour for me, the fact that it was against Munster made it even better."
"I'm going to keep my options open at the moment, I've a couple of months to decide where to go next and what to do, I've got my Computer Engineering degree from the University of Limerick behind me and I've got my QFA (Qualified Financial Advisor) exams now as well so that's a route I may take. I'm also looking into going back to college next year, maybe to do a post-grad in Chartered Accountancy so we'll see what happens."
"The family are living here with me and though we've always planned to move back to Limerick at some stage I don't think we're ready to leave Galway just yet. We've been living here for 7 years and it's a great city, great people. I would definitely consider myself a Connacht-man now, so even if we do move I'll always support Connacht."
"I've always enjoyed coaching as well so no matter what I do I'm sure I'll end up coaching at some level. I have completed the level 2 Assistant course have been involved with Monivea for the last couple of years, we won the Connacht Junior league the year before last and were beaten by Crosshaven in the All Ireland Junior Cup last year so even though I've taken a step back since my injury I still follow them very closely
"It's heartbreaking being told your rugby career is over but I've had a little bit of time to get my head around it and though it's a bit daunting thinking of a life without rugby in it as one chapter closes another opens so I'll keep myself busy and just get on with it
It'll be hard not playing anymore, standing in the terraces watching the guys play against Toulouse in the Heineken Cup and knowing I'll never hear the roar of the crowd after a good break or a good tackle. That was one of things that really hit home and that was pretty tough but I have no regrets at all. I like to think that every time I pulled on the green jersey I gave it my best, yeah I made mistakes, I'm only human but I always gave it 100 percent."
" I'm delighted to have reached 100 caps for the Province, it's a big milestone and it's great to know I'm up there on the 100 Wall, it's something I'm very proud of. I've had 7 great seasons with the club and enjoyed every single one of them and I would like to say a huge thank you to all the players, coaches, staff and medical personnel who I've worked with over the years, especially the physio's who've helped me in the last 7 months. I'd also like to thank all the Connacht fans and supporters for all the great memories.
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