Connolly represented a number of clubs, including Southampton. EMPICS Sport
Wave Goodbye

A former Irish international and footballing cult hero has announced his retirement

Manager Neal Ardley has described David Connolly as “the best striker I ever played with”.

FORMER IRELAND STRIKER David Connolly has announced his retirement from football at the age of 37.

The decision was confirmed on the official website of his final club, AFC Wimbledon, for whom he scored one goal — the winner in their recent victory against Luton Town — in eight appearances.

“Both Neal [Ardeley] and I decided that we would take it month by month in terms of assessing whether I could deliver physically at my age,” Connolly explained.

“As time has gone on I felt that starting games was difficult and so too was travelling up and down the country to come off the bench for 10 minutes or so. Neal needed a striker that could play off Bayo Akinfenwa and start games and that wasn’t me.

“I pulled Neal aside for a heart to heart chat and I felt that now was the time to call it a day. I have always had fond memories of this club and my winning goal against Luton will live long in the memory.

“It was great to bring that joy to everyone at the club. I have spoken to Neal about coaching opportunities and that could be a possibility in the future.”

Manager Neal Ardley paid a glowing tribute to Connolly following the news, playing down any potential rumours of a rift between the two in the process.

“David felt that he was struggling to bring to the party what we wanted from him. Before anyone jumps to any conclusions we get on brilliantly and we were on the phone for half an hour about it yesterday. We have so much respect for each other.

“When David did sign we talked about taking it month by month, but I misread it and thought that was him just being polite. It was actually David saying ‘I have not done this for a while and let’s see how my body will cope.’ Probably what has gone in the last 18 months at Portsmouth has not helped his confidence.

“I have total respect for David. He feels that the money we are paying him would be better spent on someone who can start games. He does not feel he is that person. That is a rare quality to accept that. I cannot speak highly enough of him. I tried to talk him around, but his mind was made up.

“He has a couple of family issues and wants to spend more time with his Dad. I had to take all these things into consideration. He is a great guy and it would have been sad if he had not had that great moment against Luton. That felt really special and more than us just getting three points.

“David was the best striker I ever played with. I played with some good ones when I was with England Under-21s. For someone like me who liked to get forwards into the game, David’s movement and understanding of space was first class. He is a good friend of mine and a good friend of the club. I have invited David to come back and do coaching at the club whenever he is ready.”

Yoni de Wolff / YouTube

Connolly played for a number of clubs, including Southampton, West Ham, Feyenoord and Sunderland, however he will be remembered most fondly for his incredible 42 goals in 63 appearances during his first stint at Wimbledon.

The veteran scored nine goals in 41 appearances for Ireland, bursting onto the international scene as a teenager, scoring two goals in the US Cup, before hitting a hat-trick against Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier one year later.

He also was part of the Ireland squad that travelled to the 2002 World Cup and unfortunately missed one of the penalties in the last-16 shootout loss to Spain.

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