Thursday 26 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# Farewell
21 inter-county footballers who called it a day in 2021
A selection of long-serving stars retired this year.

THIS YEAR SAW a number of well-known inter-county footballers announce their decision to retire. 

The late finish to the 2020 season meant a flurry of players hung up their boots during the off-season. For the purposes of this piece we’ve only included players who retired after inter-county pre-season officially returned in April. 

Included among them are multiple All-Ireland winners, All-Stars, provincial champions, former International Rules players and several long-serving servants.

pjimage (4) Inpho Boyle, McManamon, Walsh and McGrath all retired this year. Inpho


1. Brian Fox (Tipperary)

It was fitting that Fox finished his Premier playing days with a Munster senior medal. Tipperary’s 2020 provincial final win over Cork was the icing on the Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill clubman’s career that spanned 14 years. A versatile and reliable player, the 33-year-old also played in two All-Ireland semi-finals.

brian-fox-scores-a-goal Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

2. Cathal Cregg (Roscommon)

One of the longest-serving players to step away, Cregg made his debut for Roscommon back in 2006. His searing pace saw him score several memorable goals for the Rossies. The Western Gaels man finishes with two Connacht medals, in addition to a pair of Division 2 titles and a Division 3 crown.  

cathal-cregg Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

3. Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin)

Persistent injury problems forced O’Sullivan to retire from both county and club duty in June aged 33. At his peak there were few defenders who could match his brilliance. He excelled at midfield and full-back but it was at number six where he was really dominant for Dublin, perfecting the sweeping role in Jim Gavin’s five-in-a-row winning side. He walks away with an incredible tally of eight All-Ireland medals.

cian-osullivan Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

4. Ciaran Sheehan (Cork)

Another player that had to walk away due to injuries, a knee problem meant Sheehan was advised by medics to protect his long-term health by retiring from inter-county. He bows out as the last link to Cork’s 2010 All-Ireland winning team, while he won an All-Ireland U21 crown a year earlier. He also enjoyed a four-year stint in the AFL with Carlton, though he was plagued with injury Down Under.

ciaran-sheehan Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

5. Colm Boyle (Mayo)

Mayo’s lion-hearted defender stepped away in November after 14 years with the senior team. He goes down as one of their most decorated players, having won four All-Stars and six Connacht medals. The 35-year-old never added that All-Ireland senior medal to his haul, but was one of the best half-backs to grace Croke Park in the modern era. He’ll be fondly remembered by Mayo fans. 

colm-boyle Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

6. Darren Hayden (Wicklow)

Hayden gave 13 years of service to the Garden County, operating on the half-back or half-forward lines. He was a member of Wicklow’s Division 4 winning side in 2012.

darren-hayden-1112020 Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

7. Gary O’Donnell (Galway) 

The former Galway captain announced his retirement in October. He skippered the county to their 2016 Connacht SFC final win over Roscommon, and added a second title two years later. The teak-tough defender played under six different managers since joining the panel in 2008. 

gary-odonnell Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

8. James Loughrey (Cork & Antrim)

The 34-year-old achieved the rare feat of representing two counties at senior level over his career – his native Antrim and Cork where he moved for work. Physical defender Loughrey made his debut for the Saffrons in 2007 and for Cork in 2013, quickly becoming a key fixture in the full-back line of his adopted team. 

james-loughrey-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

9. Johnny Duane (Galway)

Duane stepped away 10 years after his debut with Galway. He won a Connacht title with Galway in 2018, adding to his All-Ireland U21 medal from 2011. He also represented New York in the 2016 championship. 

johnny-duane James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

10. Kevin McManamon (Dublin)

McManamon will forever be remembered as the man for the big occasion after his goal against Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland final that ended the capital’s 16-year wait for the Sam Maguire. He walks away as one of Dublin’s eight-time All-Ireland winners, and helped them to the six-in-a-row between 2015-2020.

kevin-mcmanamon-scores-a-goal Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

11. Kevin O’Driscoll (Cork) 

After over a decade in the red of Cork, O’Driscoll retired in late November. The Tadhg MacCarthaigh clubman won an All-Ireland U21 crown in 2009 and made his senior debut for the Rebels two years later in Division 1 of the National League, a competition they won. He had to wait until 2015 to make his championship bow against Clare, going on to line out with both his brothers Colm and Brian for the senior team. 

kevin-odriscoll Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

12. Neil Ewing (Sligo)

The former Sligo captain was forced to call time on a 13-year career due to injury. He made his debut in 2008 and appeared in three provincial deciders for the county. A defender for most of his career, he played a roaming half-forward role during his final few seasons.

neil-ewing Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

13. Paddy Cunningham (Antrim)

Cunningham finishes his career as Antrim’s highest ever scorer, despite a six-year gap in between the ages of 28 to 34. A dual star since making his debut for the county hurlers at 17, he scored 11 points in Antrim’s 2009 Ulster football final loss to Tyrone. After his return in 2020, he helped the Saffrons gain promotion from Division 4. 

paddy-cunningham James Crombie James Crombie

14. Paddy McGrath (Donegal)

The tight-marking corner-back was a key figure in Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland win. He finishes his career with a Celtic Cross, five Ulster titles and two Division 2 medals. The 32-year-old announced his retirement in December following a 12-year career.

paddy-mcgrath-with-the-sam-maguire-cup Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

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15. Paul Broderick (Carlow)

Carlow’s star forward for a number of years, he was nominated for an All-Star in 2018 after a stellar campaign. An efficient scorer from frees and open play, Broderick was regularly Carlow’s top marksman and his accuracy was vital to their good days. In 2018 he helped them seal promotion from Division 4 and scored 0-11 in the historic Leinster SFC win over Kildare.

carlows-paul-broderick-kicks-a-free Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

16. Peter Crowley (Kerry)

Crowley retired aged just 30 in April, having missed the previous season with a cruciate injury. Over his 10 years in the Kingdom jersey he was a tenacious, ball-playing defender that became a mainstay at centre-back. He won an All-Ireland crown in 2014 and claimed an All-Star later that year. He added seven Munster titles and two Division 1 league medals.  

darran-osullivan-and-peter-crowley-celebrate James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

17. Philip Austin (Tipperary)

15 years after making his debut in the blue and gold against Kerry, Austin announced his retirement. The versatile forward played in two All-Ireland semi-finals and appeared off the bench in Tipperary’s historic Munster SFC victory in November 2020. 

philip-austin-and-jimmy-feehan-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

18. Philly McMahon (Dublin)

For all the attacking class in the Dublin side, it was the presence of players like McMahon at the back that made them such an unbeatable outfit. He retired in December, aged 34, after a reduced role in the past couple of seasons. In his pomp he was an aggressive man-marker with the ability to score at the far end. Since his debut in 2008, he won All-Stars in 2015 and 2016, in addition to eight Celtic Crosses.

philly-mcmahon-and-colm-cooper James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

19. Shane Redmond (Carlow)

A central figure in the Barrowsiders’ defence for many years, he had a fine campaign in their memorable 2018 season when they sealed promotion to Division 3 and enjoyed championship wins over Louth and Kildare. 

shane-redmond Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

20. Stephen Kelly (Wicklow)

Another veteran to depart the scene, he was a well-established defender with the county footballers and also lined out for their hurlers, where he won three league medals and two Champion 15 awards.

jamie-clarke-and-stephen-kelly James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

21. Tommy Walsh (Kerry)

Another former AFL player to hang up his boots, Walsh won two senior All-Irelands and Young Footballer of the year with the Kingdom, in addition to an All-Ireland U21 crown. He was a powerful full-forward and gave an awesome display in the 2009 final, scoring four points from play, before his departure to Australia. He returned to the Kingdom squad in separate spells under Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Peter Keane, and made his last appearance in the semi-final loss to Tyrone in August. 

tommy-walsh Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

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