John O’Shea announces international retirement
Defender will bow out after friendly against the United States on June 2nd
Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea scores against Germany in Gelsenkirchen. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
After 17 years as a senior Republic of Ireland international, John O’Shea has confirmed that the friendly game against the USA on June 2nd will be his last game for his country. In a personal message written by the 37-year-old and posted on the FAI website, the Sunderland defender says that he feels “the time is right to step aside”.
The news is no great surprise. Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy had already announced their departures and Martin O’Neill had hinted that the USA game might be used as a bit of a send off with O’Shea, who had not featured in a game since the one against Wales at the start of last year, the obvious candidate to take centre stage.
That was his 117th cap. His first had come as a late substitute in a friendly against Croatia at the old Lansdowne Road back in August 2001. O’Shea, then just 20, came on for Gary Kelly with seven minutes remaining and three minutes into added time conceded the penalty, for handball, from which the visitors scored to earn a 2-2 draw. It was an inauspicious start to one of the great Irish international careers.
It was 18 months later that he made his competitive debut, against Georgia in Tbilisi but he very quickly established himself after that as a regular. During the years that followed his versatility allowed managers to use him in every position across the backline with O’Shea having prolonged spells as Ireland’s first choice right and left back as well as in the centre.
Having missed out on the World Cup in Japan and South Korea he later featured in two finals tournaments with Ireland, the European Championships of 2012 and 2016. He has since been a regular member of the squad despite not playing so much and O’Neill has regularly praised the influence he exerts on other, younger players.
“I’ve never taken anything in life for granted and the passing in the last year of my Dad, Jim, and my friend and team-mate Liam Miller has shown me that every moment in life (not just football) should be cherished,” he says in his statement.
“I have certainly cherished my international career (and) 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.”
O’Neill, who is to name his squad for the end of season friendlies in Navan on Thursday, paid tribute the player: “For any player to get over 100 caps is a magnificent feat and he can be very proud of that achievement,” he said. “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.