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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

After 117 caps, John O'Shea confirms imminent retirement from international football

The Sunderland player will represent his country for the last time against USA on 2 June.

O'Shea has represented Ireland in every calendar year since 2001.
O'Shea has represented Ireland in every calendar year since 2001.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated at 21.02

JOHN O’SHEA HAS confirmed he is set to retire from international football.

The Ireland defender earned 117 caps in 17 years of senior international football.

The 37-year-old Sunderland player will represent his country for the last time against USA on 2 June.

The Waterford native and former Manchester United player spent 22 years with the Boys in Green including underage level.

Along with other future stars such as Andy Reid and Liam Miller, O’Shea was part of the Brian Kerr-managed side that won the U16 European Championships in 1998.

He won his first senior cap back as a substitute in a friendly against Croatia in August 2001, going on to play 116 more times in the subsequent years.

He represented Ireland in two tournaments — Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, playing every minute of the former campaign.

The veteran centre-back was also named FAI Senior International Player of the Year in 2014, the same year he grabbed a memorable late equaliser as Ireland drew 1-1 away to reigning world champions Germany.

In an open letter to fans following today’s news, O’Shea said: “It has been an amazing journey but I feel now is the right time to step aside for the next generation to enjoy the experiences I am so humbled to have been part of.

We have just passed the 20th anniversary of the Ireland Under 16s winning the UEFA European Championships in Scotland and it is fitting that the current U17 squad are now competing on the same stage. I still look back at that particular triumph as the real starting point for my international career. I’m sure the young lads making up Colin O’Brien’s squad will be loving every minute of the tournament; just like I did under Brian Kerr and the late Noel O’Reilly.

“I always wanted to play as much as I could at senior level and to now have 117 caps has truly been an honour.

“There have been many highlights, such as leading Ireland out as captain, featuring at two UEFA European Championships, and getting to share a pitch alongside so many committed and talented players over the years.

“It is a similar sentiment with regard to my managers at international level — Mick McCarthy, Brian Kerr, Steve Staunton, Don Givens, Giovanni Trapattoni, Noel King, and Martin O’Neill, they placed their trust in me and I hope that I paid them back in a small way by always giving everything on the pitch.

“I would also like to acknowledge the support I have always received from Sunderland and, prior to that, Manchester United, in particular, Sir Alex Ferguson who is in my thoughts at the moment – get well soon Boss!

“I’ve never taken anything in life for granted and the passing in the last year of my Dad, Jim, and my friend & team-mate Liam Miller has shown me that every moment in life (not just football) should be cherished.

“I have certainly cherished my international career, it will be emotional walking out for the final time in front of the Ireland supporters. But it is now time to say thank you and allow others to lead the team forward, it’s been an amazing honour to wear our green shirt.

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“I would like to thank my family especially, my Mam, Mary, and brother Alan, who have given me nothing but support over the years, my friends, my underage coaches, especially at Ferrybank and Bohemians (Waterford), my schools Ferrybank BNS and De La Salle college, my team-mates, every staff member who has helped me through the years, my managers, and, most importantly, the Ireland supporters — it was always a real privilege to play in front of you!

“To my wife, Yvonne, I thank you for your constant support, and to my kids, Alfie and Ruby, we can look forward to watching Ireland games together as supporters.”

O’Shea, one of only six senior men’s players to reach 100 caps, has represented Ireland at least once in every calendar year since 2001, captaining his country 17 times in the process.

Manager Martin O’Neill was among those to pay tribute to O’Shea following the news.

“John has had a great career internationally and played at the very top at club level with Manchester United, where he won a lot of trophies,” he said.

For any player to get over 100 caps is a magnificent feat and he can be very proud of that achievement. I will always remember John’s goal away to Germany in Gelsenkirchen. He doesn’t score too many goals so that made it even more special.

“I wish John the very best for the future and I’m sure he will become an excellent coach. And if he wants to I’m sure he has the capabilities of becoming a manager too.”

FAI CEO John Delaney added: “We have been very fortunate to have had some truly outstanding servants pull on the Republic of Ireland jersey and John O’Shea is most definitely one of those. When you watched him play it was clear to see how much it meant to him to be representing his country and that kind of commitment inspired players and supporters across many generations,” said Delaney.

“A proud Waterford man, who was given a great introduction to football by Ferrybank and Waterford Bohemians, John always gave everything for Ireland and that is evidenced by the fact that he played international football for 17 consecutive years. That is a remarkable achievement and explains why he has always been a firm favourite amongst the Ireland supporters.

“John is one of the most decorated Irish players of the modern era due to his tremendous success with Manchester United, but he will be known more for his leadership – on and off the pitch. Whether it was with Sunderland or Ireland, John led by example and others followed. Just like his father, Jim, who was a gentleman, John has and always will be a passionate supporter of Irish football.

“We will pay tribute to John at the United States game on June 2. I hope the Ireland supporters will turn out in force to give a deserved send-off to one of the most committed players ever to pull on the green jersey.”

O’Shea is currently third on the list of all-time appearances for his country, with only Shay Given and Robbie Keane having featured more frequently than the defender.

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Paul Fennessy

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