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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Dundalk captain O'Donnell retires as he takes up role on club's backroom team

The 32-year-old has called time on a glittering playing career, after winning six League of Ireland titles.

O'Donnell released a statement this evening confirming his decision.
O'Donnell released a statement this evening confirming his decision.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

DUNDALK CAPTAIN STEPHEN O’Donnell has this evening announced his retirement from professional football, but he will immediately move into a role on the club’s backroom team. 

The 32-year-old has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons and following speculation he would call time on his glittering career earlier in the week, O’Donnell confirmed his decision on Thursday.

The midfielder, who won six League of Ireland titles during a 13-year playing career, has been appointed Dundalk’s senior opposition analyst and scout ahead of the 2019 SSE Airtricity League season.

O’Donnell joins Vinny Perth’s coaching staff at Oriel Park and assumes the role vacated by Ruaidhri Higgins, who was promoted to assistant coach amid the off-season reshuffle following the departure of Stephen Kenny.

The Galway native joined Dundalk in 2012 from Shamrock Rovers and played a key role in the club’s revival under Kenny, guiding the Lilywhites to four Premier Division titles, two FAI Cups and two EA Sports Cups.

In a statement, O’Donnell — who also had spells with Falkirk, Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and Galway United — said he has no regrets as he hangs up his boots and begins the next chapter of his career, ‘on the other side of the fence’.

“All I have been doing since I was 15 is full-time professional football so it was a tough decision to retire,” he said.

“It’s something that I haven’t taken lightly. It’s time to see the other side of things and go the other side of the fence. I get to stay involved which is great and in something which I really love. I have had an unbelievable time with Dundalk. The story has been told over and over again since I have signed. You couldn’t have envisaged what happened. I have been treated brilliantly by the club and the town. It is a little bit like Roy of the Rovers style stuff regarding the team and what we went on to achieve.

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Stephen O’Donnell celebrates at full time O'Donnell won four league titles with Dundalk. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

“We don’t want to be finished yet. I wanted to stay around the club so to have the opportunity to do that is brilliant. I have a great relationship with the club. If there was any possibility to stay and help the club I was delighted to do so. Luckily the opportunity arose and it’s great to be staying.

“I have had a great career. It has been very enjoyable and I have won a lot of trophies. There has been a lot of downs as well as ups. I have had my injury problems. Looking back I have no regrets. It was a career I loved and as time goes on I will reflect on it more. It’s hard to say at this moment in time but I had a great career. I met so many great people, I have had great teammates and made some great memories. I don’t think you can ever beat the feeling of being in the dressing room after a match, the feeling of ecstasy of getting an important result and a big win. ”

I’m moving into a different role and I am looking forward to getting started. I want to help the management team in any way that I can. It is something that over the last few years I had my heart set on, getting involved after I finished playing. This is my first step. I am here to learn and I am going to try take things in. Hopefully we can have another successful season.

In paying tribute to O’Donnell, Dundalk head coach Perth said: “Tommy McConville, Martin Lawlor and Tom McNulty are some of the great captains in the history of Dundalk Football Club. Stephen O’Donnell is at very minimum in equal standing to those great players. One of the catalysts for all of our success over the past five years was that historic goal against Cork City in 2014. The way in which he fought to be back on the pitch for that game sums up his attitude, determination and character.”

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Ryan Bailey

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