Stephen Ward announces his international retirement
Burnley defender wants to focus all of his energy on his remaining club career
Stephen Ward has played his last match for the Republic of Ireland. Photograph: Getty Images
Burnley defender Stephen Ward has informed Mick McCarthy that he is retiring from international football with the 33 year-old intent, it seems, on focusing all of his energy on getting as much out as he can out of his remaining club career.
The Dubliner made his 50th appearance for Ireland in the 4-1 Nations League defeat by Wales in September but he has made only three appearances for Burnley since, all of them in cup competitions, and he has not featured for the first team at all since late January.
Ward has had his share of injury problems over the course of the past couple of seasons but is clearly struggling to get game time even when fit and the decision to concentrate on getting back it at Burnley makes some sense given that he would probably not as central for Ireland when he has been playing so little.
Overall, he has a career to be proud of with 49 starts for his country, including all seven of the games that Ireland featured in at major championships during his time with the team. He appears to have been well liked by the managers he worked with (easy going and chatty, he was also a popular figure with the media) and well regarded by everyone for his commitment to the cause.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I have decided to retire from international football,” said Ward, who scored one of his three international goals when making his debut against Northern Ireland back in May 2011, in a statement. “To represent my country has been a dream come true and the biggest honour I could have had.
“To play in a couple of major championships has been the highlight and the night we beat Italy at the 2016 Euros will live with me for the rest of my life.
“I have been very proud to have played a part in those achievements and I feel this is a good time to move on. There are a lot of good young players and new talent coming through and I wish all of them, Mick [MCCARTHY]and the staff all the best for the future.
“I’d like to thank everyone - managers, players, backroom staff I’ve worked with and the supporters - and say it was a pleasure to work with each and every one of them.”
McCarthy apparently expected to be able to name defender in the squad for the games against Gibraltar and Georgia until the pair spoke on Thursday but he said that while he was surprised, he accepted the player’s decision.
“I signed Stephen [WARD]first from Bohemians and worked with him at Wolves, and I’m kind of sad that I don’t get to work with him with Ireland,” he said, “but he’s made his decision and I can understand it.
“He has had 50 caps and he can retire being proud of that achievement. I’m really proud to have worked with him because he was a really good player for me and for Ireland.
“Even though we bought Wardy as a striker, I remember the day that I put him at left-back, at Charlton Athletic, and he was outstanding, and I kept picking him there after that. He’s had a really good career there and I’m sad to see him go but he wanted to be fair to me, fair to the other players, and fair to himself.”