“It’s a pretty hard thing to do” – Why quitting the Whatsapp group was the hardest part of Billy Holland’s Munster exit
Billy Holland had been through the emotional roller coaster of packing and saying goodbye to everyone in Munster, but it wasn’t until he retired from the team’s WhatsApp group that the reality of retirement really hit it.
Just as Holland calls him one day on his own terms, he was also quick to make sure he was the one to step down from the group.
“I didn’t want Peter O’Mahony’s ignominy to take me out of a WhatsApp group, I’d rather fall on my own sword,” Holland smiles.
“Isn’t it amazing you do all the starts and you have all the goodbye speeches and it’s just leaving a WhatsApp group, from what I consider to be my friends is actually quite a difficult thing to do.
“It’s crazy how something like this can have such an impact. But I guess that’s modern life, isn’t it? But yeah, I did it before O’Mahony got hold of me!
After 247 appearances in a 14-year professional career as a one-club man, Holland is now eagerly awaiting the next chapter of the ‘real world’.
The next few months will be spent relaxing and preparing for the arrival of the third child of himself and his wife Lanlih in September before Holland takes a banking position in January.
Rugby has been everything the 35-year-old has known, but it’s been all-consuming too, so from there Holland is eager to step back.
“I always knew that in October or November there would be a pang in my heart and you would really miss it, but oddly enough last Tuesday morning I woke up and I was like ‘Oh’, I was surprised how I felt, it had happened so quickly, I felt pretty bad that I retired immediately, ”says Holland.
“It’s one of the small sacrifices of professional rugby that your time is not yours. I’ve received a weekly schedule by email every Thursday or Friday for the past 17 years, you know, what am I doing what day and what time next week.
“So you wake up on a Tuesday morning and ‘So what am I going to do today? Prepare dinner and tour the island 50 times.
“It’s an adjustment. Some people say it’s like being in the military, you get your schedule and you plan your schedule, your own extras and your recovery around that and your week is really regulated. It’s a big change once you’re done.
The temptation to put the cleats back on with Cork Con in the All-Ireland League isn’t as strong as one might think, as Holland admits the demands of professional rugby have taken a heavy toll on his body throughout last season .
And besides, the way he sees it: “Of course I would only go out to get my head screwed by a bunch of young guys every weekend!” What a label that would be – ‘This is your man Billy Holland, the Munster guy.’
“You would have all the AIL players in Ireland trying to beat you. I’ve had enough of this, as much as I love the game.
The decision to retire was already a tough one without having to endure another trophy-less end to the season with Munster, but Holland accepts how the cards have fallen.
Although he is short again, he firmly believes that Munster is not far from ending his barren plight with no silverware.
“It was terribly disappointing, there’s no other way to put it,” Holland adds.
“Losing against Leinster in the final (PRO14) and then losing seven days later against Toulouse was really, really hard to accept mentally.
“There are rarely fairytale endings in life in general. You don’t always get what you want or think you deserve, but I guess that’s the beauty of the sport.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or how you feel, there are two teams that day and we finished second twice in seven days which is difficult.
“Like I told the guys, if and when they win next year, I’ll knock on the locker room door, asking for a sip of the trophy.
“I really hope they win it. I’ve been playing with Munster for 14 years, I won’t get a medal and I won’t be on this team, but I will feel like I played a small part in it.
“I’ll be back as a Munster supporter next year and I wish they did well.
“Of course there will be an element of jealousy that it didn’t happen while you were there, but I would like to think that I would be old enough to be absolutely 100% satisfied for the guys, which I know I will be. “
Billy Holland was speaking at the opening of a new Aldi store in Douglas, which is expected to create 27 new jobs