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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Farewell! 23 inter-county footballers who called it a day in 2018

Some big names bowed out over the last 12 months.

A HOST OF well-known Gaelic footballers departed the inter-county arena this year. 

All-Ireland winners and provincial champions were among them, while some long-serving servants also hung up their boots.  

1. Michael Shields (Cork)

Michael Shields celebrates his side scoring a goal immediately after conceding Michael Shields. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Shields was the final link with the 2010 All-Ireland winning Cork side to retire, choosing to bring the curtain down on a 13-year career. Injuries and off-field commitments led to the 31-year-old’s decision to retire. He made his debut in 2006 against Kerry in the drawn Munster final and went on to claim three Munster titles, an All-Stars in 2009 and 2010.

2. Gary Sice (Galway)

Gary Sice scores the second Galway goal Gary Sice celebrates scoring a goal for Galway. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

11 years after making his debut for Galway, Gary Sice opted to call it a day. The Corofin forward won an All-Ireland U21 crown with Galway and his last game for the seniors arrived in the Connacht final defeat to Roscommon in July 2017.

3. Brian Kavanagh (Longford)

Brian Kavanagh looks on as his penalty hits the woodwork Brian Kavanagh takes a penalty against Offaly. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kavanagh was a long-serving soldier for Longford, having made his debut in 2006 under Luke Dempsey against Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final. He posted two points that day and would be a regular scorer throughout his career, helping the county to a shock qualifier win over then Ulster champions Monaghan in 2016.

4. Diarmuid Masterson (Longford)

Paddy Andrews with Diarmuid Masterson Dublin's Paddy Andrews with Diarmuid Masterson of Longford. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Masterson was another to follow Kavanagh out the exit door in Longford. He also made his debut in 2006, against Derry in their round 3 qualifier victory that set-up a clash against Kerry. Masterson was extremely versatile, operating at corner-back, half-back and half-forward during his inter-county career.

5. Mark Breheny (Sligo)

Mark Breheny and Fergal Boland Sligo's Mark Breheny and Fergal Boland of Mayo. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Breheny announced his retirement in January after 17 years of service for Sligo. He was thought to be the longest serving player in the inter-county game before he retired. Breheny’s debut came in 2000 during the league in Navan, the same venue where he played his final game in the 2017 championship.

6. Seanie Buckley (Limerick)

Seanie Buckley Seanie Buckley during a game against Cork. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Buckley was first involved with Limerick seniors in 2005, during a spell when they were very competitive in the Munster SFC. He announced his decision to step away in January.

7. Johnny McCarthy (Limerick)

Johnny McCarthy and Jamie Malone Johnny McCarthy challenges Clare's Jamie Malone. Source: Lorraine OÕSullivan/INPHO

McCarthy arrived on the scene a year earlier than Buckley and also informed Billy Lee of his decision to walk away prior to this year’s league campaign commencing. He was an All-Star nominee in 2009, when Limerick lost to Cork in the Munster final by a single point.

8. Kieran Donaghy (Kerry)

Kieran Donaghy takes to the field Kieran Donaghy takes to the field with Kerry for the last time. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Donaghy brought a legendary career to a close with his announcement in September, which was accompanied by a poem. The Austin Stacks clubman finished with four All-Ireland senior medals, three All-Stars and the Footballer of the Year award in 2006.

9. Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry)

Donnchadh Walsh with Davy Byrne Kerry’s Donnchadh Walsh fields a ball over Davy Byrne of Dublin. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Walsh became the second Kerry footballer to retire in September. The 34-year-old left the scene with three Celtic Crosses and eight Munster crowns. He was an energetic half-forward but injuries reduced his impact in his final season with the Kingdom.

10. Eamonn Callaghan (Kildare)

Eamonn Callaghan celebrates Eoghan O'Flaherty's goal Kildare's Eamonn Callaghan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Callaghan stepped away with 17 years of service for the Lilywhites. The 35-year-old was handed his debut by Mick O’Dwyer in 2002 and lost four senior Leinster finals during his career. He helped Kildare to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2010, where they fell to Down by two points.

11. Sean Armstrong (Galway)

Sean Armstrong Sean Armstrong in his last game for Galway against Dublin. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Armstrong retired from inter-county football for the second time in September, when he announced his latest decision. The 32-year-old previously hung up his boots in 2014, but was tempted back into the fold by Kevin Walsh. He made his senior debut in 2005 and won the All-Ireland U21 crown the same year. He added three Connacht titles with the Tribsemen at senior level.

12. Anthony Maher (Kerry)

Anthony Maher Kerry's Anthony Maher. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With two All-Ireland medals in his back pocket, Anthony Maher followed Donaghy and O’Sullivan into retirement. The 32-year-old received an All-Star in 2015 following Kerry’s All-Ireland defeat to Dublin. He made his debut in 2008 under Pat O’Shea, and also served under Jack O’Connor and Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

13. Darran O’Sullivan (Kerry)

Darran O'Sullivan celebrates after the game O'Sullivan after Kerry's Munster final win over Cork. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

O’Sullivan became the fourth Kingdom veteran to walk away, leaving the scene with four All-Ireland medals. He skippered Kerry to the All-Ireland in 2009 and was an All-Star in 2011. O’Sullivan frequently battled injuries in his later years that reduced his playing time, but on his day not many could live with his electrifying pace.

14. Charlie Harrison (Sligo)

Charlie Harrison Sligo’s Charlie Harrison. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Harrison retired at 36-years-old in October, drawing one of the most successful Sligo careers to a close. He’s one of just four men from the county to hold a Connacht medal and an All-Star, while he captained them to victories over Mayo and Galway in 2010 before they lost the provincial decider to Roscommon.

15. George Hannigan (Tipperary)

George Hannigan Tipperary’s George Hannigan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Hannigan drew a 13-year career to a close when he called time on his career. He made his senior debut for the Premier in 2006 and went on to appear in 36 championship games. He won Division 3 titles in 2009 and 2017 in addition to the Division 4 crown in 2014.

16. John McGrath (Wicklow)

Conor Carroll and John McGrath Offaly's Conor Carroll chases John McGrath of Wicklow. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

McGrath retired at 31-years-old after spending 12 years with the Wicklow seniors. The forward was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011 and after undergoing intense chemotherapy, he incredibly rejoined the county set-up in 2012 and remained part of it until last summer.

17. Ciaran Hyland (Wicklow)

Ciaran and Fay Hyland celebrate at the final whistle Ciaran and Fay Hyland celebrate after a game last summer. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

McGrath was joined in retirement by tight-marking defender Hyland. The 36-year-old made his debut in 2003 and received an All-Star nomination in 2009. He featured in Leinster SFC clashes this year against Offaly and Dublin, before injury ruled him out of their qualifier defeat to Cavan.

18. Mark Lynch (Derry)

Mark Lynch is sent off Derry's Mark Lynch after being sent off against Kildare last June. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Derry head into the 2019 campaign without experienced forward Lynch. The former Oak Leaf captain made his senior debut under Mickey Moran in 2004 and played in the All-Ireland semi-final that year where they lost to Kerry. He lifted a Division 1 title in 2008 and won a Division 2 medal in 2013. Lynch played more than 50 times for Derry, with the final game of his 14-year career arriving against Kildare last summer.

19. Donncha O’Connor (Cork)

Donncha O'Connor Donncha O'Connor with Sam Maguire in 2010. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

O’Connor retired at 37 during the summer, eight years after he scored five points in the All-Ireland final win over Down. He also claimed four Munster crowns, three Division 1 titles and a Division 2 medal.

20. Colm O’Neill (Cork)

Colm O’Neill celebrates scoring a point Cork's Colm O’Neill celebrates scoring a point against Mayo in 2017. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Another member of Cork’s 2010 crop to retire was O’Neill. At 29 he overcame three cruciate operations during his career but a torn cartilage in his knee hampered his 2018 campaign. A silky forward capable of scoring off either foot, O’Neill made his debut in 2009 and collected the Sam Maguire a year later.

21. Alan Mulhall (Offaly)

Alan Mulhall dejected Offaly's goalkeeper Alan Mulhall after a 2017 clash against Westmeath. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Long-serving Offaly goalkeeper Mulhall retired earlier in December after 15 years on the senior panel. He represented the Faithful 88 times throughout his career and the Walsh Island native was a solid presence between the posts, making countless crucial saves over the years.

22. Brian Darby (Offaly)

Brian Darby with a young fan Brian Darby after a qualifier clash against London. Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

Darby initially retired in November 2017, but answered his county’s call last summer when Paul Rouse took charge as interim manager. After featuring in championship clashes against Antrim and Clare, the Rhode clubman will not be returning to the fold in 2019.

23. Darren Strong (Laois)

Darren Strong and Evan Comerford Dublin's Cormac Costello and and Darren Strong of Laois. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Strong opted to call it a day ahead of the 2019 season, almost a decade after he broke onto the Laois team. He established himself as a wing-back under Justin McNulty and was part of the side that made the All-Ireland quarter-final in 2012. He helped Laois to Division 4 honours this year and started at corner-back in the Leinster final defeat to Dublin in June.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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