Ireland’s most capped women’s player Emma Byrne has retired from international football,.
The Brighton and Hove Albion goalie steps aside after almost 23 years in the number one jersey, which began in March 1996, aged 16. She has amassed 134 caps since then and won the Women’s Champions League and 11 League titles with Arsenal.
The 38-year-old from Kildare pulled out of last month’s squad to face Scotland due to educational commitments, and now ends her international career before the team begins their World Cup 2019 qualification campaign next month. Manchester City’s Marie Hourihan will take over as Ireland’s number one.
“The time has come for me to hang up the footy boots, gloves and gum shield,” Byrne wrote on social media.
“I’ve had an amazing journey.
“It has been my honour to represent and captain our amazing country. 23 years wearing the Irish shirt has brought so many happy memories and many invaluable friendships that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I feel extremely lucky to have carried our flag around the world.
“To the supporters of ladies football, you have been wonderful.
“Thank you to the PFAI, SIPTU, the FAI and the Irish media for making my last battle a successful one.
“Last and not least, thank you to all my teammates throughout the years, my family and my friends for sharing a very happy journey with me.”
Her personal statement made notable reference to a dispute between the team and the FAI over the backing the association gives the women’s national team, which was resolved after a series of late-night talks.
FAI CEO John Delaney added his tribute to Byrne, saying; “To pull on the Ireland jersey is a special thing, but to do it on 134 occasions is quite remarkable. Similar to Robbie Keane and Shay Given, who retired from international football last year, Emma has earned her right to be described as an Irish legend.”
“Women's football has made huge strides in recent years and we continue to work hard to advance the game at all levels. For that to happen we need players, coaches, administrators and volunteers to have the same level of commitment that Emma showed over two decades with the Women's Senior Team, to help drive us forward.”
Byrne’s Ireland career ran parallel to Given from the time both made their debuts in March 1996. Both retire as legends with 134 caps to their names.