One of the greats: Niall McNamee calls it a day for Offaly

He made his debut in 2003 and led the line for Offaly for 14 years with little success

Offaly will go into the 2018 season without their talisman of over a decade, after Niall McNamee announced his retirement from intercounty football on Tuesday evening.

The corner forward made his championship debut - as a 17-year-old - against Laois in May 2003, and since then has thrilled football fans nationwide with his wide array of skills. He has won Division Two (2004), and two Division Four (2008 and 2015) league titles.

In a dark period for Offaly football - since 1997 they have competed in only one Leinster senior final (losing by nine points to Dublin in 2006) - McNamee has consistently been the county’s most prolific scorer.

A beautifully balanced footballer, in over 42 championship and 90 league appearances for the Faithful County he has been a deadeye freetaker, capable of winning ball high or low and scoring off either foot.

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The Rhode clubman was nominated for an All Star in 2006, and played for Ireland in the International Rules series in 2010. He has won eight club championship medals in Offaly, as well as a Dublin championship in 2006 with UCD.

The 31-year-old only joined this year’s Offaly panel late in the season, and made his final appearance as a substitute against Cavan in their All-Ireland qualifier defeat.

He announced his retirement in an Instagram post; “It only seems like yesterday that I made my debut,” he wrote. “It’s been a huge honour to represent and captain my county.

“The time has now come to step away. I want to say a huge thank you to all of my team mates that I’ve been lucky to take the field with down through the years. Thank you to all the managers who showed faith in me. I’ve been extremely lucky to fulfil a lot of my childhood dreams and it is truly with a heavy heart that I call it a day.

“A massive thank you to all the faithful supporters for your support throughout the years both on and off the field. Finally a big thank you to my parents, brothers and sister and my girlfriend for always being there in the good days and the not so good days.”

In 2012 McNamee revealed that he had been battling a gambling addiction, and in the years since he has worked with the GPA (and via his own blog) to help highlight the potential pitfall for other players.

“I couldn’t have done it without you all. The GPA, thank you also for the huge part you guys have played in supporting my off field career. I’m really looking forward to supporting the boys next year and beyond and I pray that the glory days return to Offaly in the not too distant future.”

Offaly GAA also released a statement thanking McNanee for his 14 years of service;

“While he may not have gained major honours at National level he was none the less a household name and he gained recognition at provincial level with Leinster and also represented Ireland at International rules level.

“Niall was certainly one of Offaly’s greatest ever forwards, we thank him for the memories and wish him every success in the future. There is no doubt we will see him continue to line out for his beloved Rhode for many years to come. Thanks Niall.”

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times