Kieran McGeeney and John Doyle have led the tributes to Ronan Sweeney who has confirmed his retirement from inter-county football after 14 years as a Kildare player.
Sweeney, a Leinster SFC winner in 2000, confirmed his departure following Saturday's All-Ireland SFC qualifier loss to Tyrone in Newbridge - a game he was not involved in. A back injury unfortunately disrupted his final season.
The 32-year-old midfielder-cum-forward made 127 league and Championship appearances for his native county. He will continue to play club football for Moorefield.
Current Kildare boss McGeeney, the fourth different manager Sweeney served under, got in touch with local radio station KFM today to express his admiration for the player.
"Just wanted to say a public thank you to an absolute gent and a fantastic servant of Kildare football. Was an honour to coach such a dedicated and committed player. Have that Celtic jersey waiting for you. Thanks Roly," said McGeeney in a text to the station.
Doyle, Sweeney's long-time team-mate, commented: "It has been an unbelievable honour to have soldiered with Roly for all of his 14 years, to have shared so many fantastic days together in a white jersey. He has given his life to Kildare and could not have given more. Thanks for everything Roly, the pleasure was all mine."
Sweeney's own Championship debut against Louth in the summer of 2000 coincided with Doyle's first Championship start for the Lilywhites, and he went on to become a regular during Mick O'Dwyer's reign and the subsequent managerial tenures of Padraig Nolan and John Crofton.
“It’s sad, I had it in my mind but it's difficult to actually say the words. After a long time, 14 years, it’s all you know, all my adult life has been just about training and trying to perform and win matches. It was an enjoyable time though and it was great that I was able to do it," he told the Kildare Nationalist.
"It's hard to pick anything out, obviously winning the Leinster in 2000 was massive but I was fairly young at the time and I didn't really take it all in and understand what was happening really. I was kind of thrown into it a little bit at that stage.
"The time under Kieran was probably the most enjoyable time that I remember, especially '09 and '10, the long runs we had in the Championship and getting so close to the All-Ireland final."