10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
In the course of a career that started in September 2005, the Kilkenny native won 97 competitive caps for Munster, played in both the 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup finals and won a Magners League medal in 2009.
He would have added greatly to that final total but for injury in 2007 and last season when he was stretchered off in the Heineken Cup quarter-final game against Northampton Saints at Thomond Park. It was a knee injury on that occasion that forced him to miss the rest of the season.
And Dowling was only playing in his third competitive game of the season last September when he sustained the hip injury, four minutes into the game, that would ultimately end his career.
A hugely popular member of the province's senior squad, he made his debut in the Magners League game against Lllanelli Scarlets at Musgrave Park and ended his first season with 15 caps and a Heineken Cup winner's medal having played in the quarter-final, semi-final and final of that competition.
A try scorer in the 2008 quarter-final win over Gloucester at Kingsholm, he won his second Heineken Cup medal lining out on the wing against Toulouse.
A year later, he earned the first of his two international caps against Canada on Ireland's summer tour of North America.
Dowling informed his current team-mates of his decision ahead of training at Cork IT this morning and afterwards although admittedly 'gutted' to be ending his career, he spoke glowingly of the highlights of his six seasons with Munster.
"It's been a fabulous experience. I've made some great friends and take with me really great memories, the two Heineken Cup wins obviously the highlights. But besides that, I've had wonderful times with Munster," he said.
"In fairness, I've received all the help and assistance I could have asked for from the Munster medics and I'm hugely appreciative of all the time and effort they've put in trying to get me back.
"We've explored every avenue possible but in the end I know this is the right decision, the only one really."
In the course of his efforts to recover from the hip injury, Dowling sensibly made provision for a day of reckoning he knew might arrive and has been engaged in a degree course in Physiotherapy in UL.
"I'd have to say I'm excited about this new direction. A lot of the skills that I needed to bring to professional rugby are transferable to what I'm doing now," he added.
"But again I have to thank the course director who has been so supportive in facilitating my studies while I was also rehabbing this injury.
"I've been fortunate really. I had a great career as a professional rugby player. Enjoyed success with Munster. Got to travel the world. And am lucky now to be in the position I'm in with a new career hopefully beckoning.
"But there is a lesson here for all those looking to follow a pro rugby path. It can end abruptly. Keep that in your mind if you're sitting in a classroom with only dreams of playing at Thomond Park," explained the holder of an honours Sports Science degree from UL.
"I'd like to thanks all those who have supported me in my career, the coaches, fitness guys, all involved with Munster and Ireland and close friends with particular thanks to my parents John and Kitty, sister Catriona and girlfriend Gill who were always there for me in good times and bad.
"And finally, to the Munster fans, the best in the world, my heartfelt thanks for the part you played in making mine such a memorable career."