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Dublin: 21 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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'A proper legend' - 39-year-old Northern Ireland defender retires from football after Euro 2020 qualifier

Aaron Hughes, capped 112 times at international level, was in Michael O’Neill’s squad despite not having a club for the past month.

Aaron Hughes featured at Euro 2016.
Aaron Hughes featured at Euro 2016.
Image: Mike Egerton

FORMER NORTHERN IRELAND captain Aaron Hughes has retired from professional football.

The 39-year-old defender did not play as Michael O’Neill’s side won 1-0 away to Belarus in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday.

Hughes has made 112 appearances for his country, more than any other outfield player and behind only goalkeeper Pat Jennings.

The former Newcastle United and Fulham centre-back has not publicly announced his decision but told his international team-mates after Paddy McNair’s goal secured victory in Borisov.

“Aaron spoke to us after the game and he was a little bit emotional, which is understandable,” said Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis.

He has been a huge player for us over many years, such a consistent performer, and he will be remembered as a proper legend.

“Aaron still looks as if he could play on for a couple more years, but if he has made a decision to retire, we’ve got to respect that and wish him well.”

Hughes left Scottish side Hearts last month having only made one league start in the 2018-19 season.

Northern Ireland have a perfect record after four qualifiers, with O’Neill’s men facing Germany and Netherlands in their next two competitive outings, in September and October.

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