Stephen Ward announces Ireland retirement with 'a heavy heart'

It was only this morning that Stephen Ward rang Mick McCarthy to inform the manager of his retirement from international football.

McCarthy had been considering the retention of the Burnley man in his final squad of 23 for the opening Euro qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia but, as the manager went on to explain: “I hadn't rung him and he rang me to pre-empt any chance of that, I guess. Having been out for so long he wants to make sure he is fit to play for his club. He will tell you that he has taken himself out of the running.”

The Dubliner duly confirmed the news later in the day via an FAI statement in which he said: "It’s with a heavy heart that I have decided to retire from international football. 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.”

Paying tribute to the 33-year-old who was capped 50 times for his country, McCarthy said of bringing him from Bohemians to Wolves: "From what he has gone on to achieve, he has been one of the most successful purchases. What was it from Bohs? £100,000? I think we'd both think that it was a success. I do and I am sure that he does."

Injury has ruled a couple of players out of the squad, with the manager set to replace Preston’s Alan Browne and Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis, the latter requiring emergency surgery after suffering the severe consequences of catching a finger in a door slammed shut in high winds.

“He’s amputated 80% they said,” McCarthy reported. “I just felt really bad for him because he’s had a great season. I was looking forward to working him with, I was really impressed by him.”

Even though James McCarthy’s lack of game time had ruled him out of contention, for the two qualifiers, McCarthy said he had intended to invite the Everton midfielder in for training purposes until he learned that the player’s wife had given birth.

“I don’t think he’d be breaking out to come and train,” said the manager. “Well, I wouldn’t if my wife had just had a baby. I’ve just sent him congratulations and nothing else.”

Mick McCarthy. Picture: Sportsfile
Mick McCarthy. Picture: Sportsfile

Also not retained from the provisional squad are Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Kieran O'Hara (Macclesfield Town) Cyrus Christie (Fulham), Kevin Long (Burnley), Jimmy Dunne (Sunderland), Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers), Aiden McGeady (Sunderland), David Meyler (CoventryCity), Shaun Williams (Millwall), Daryl Horgan (Hibernian),Scott Hogan (Sheffield United), Aiden O'Brien (Millwall) and Padraig Amond (Newport County).

But a new face who has made the cut is Luton Town striker James Collins.

Said McCarthy: “He’s an experienced centre-forward, although I know not at the level that we’re talking about. But he’s a powerful lad and can hold the ball up and he’s got goals in him. He’s scored everywhere he’s been. It is a step up (from League One) but I will see him in training and, who knows, there have been players who play above their level when they go and play with other players.”

Shane Long, despite limping out of Southampton’s last game, will also be available.

“He had a dead leg but he will be fine,” said McCarthy.

Republic of Ireland Squad:

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Mark Travers (Bournemouth) Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Richard Keogh (Derby County), John Egan (Sheffield United), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)

Midfielders: Alan Judge (Ipswich Town), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Harry Arter (Cardiff City*), Glenn Whelan (Aston Villa), Robbie Brady (Burnley), Callum O'Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (Stoke City)

Forwards: Shane Long (Southampton), Sean Maguire (Preston North End), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), David McGoldrick (Sheffield United), James Collins (Luton Town)*Indicates player is on loan

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