'One of the greatest footballers ever to wear an Ireland jersey' - FAI pay tribute to retired Damien Duff
Damien Duff has admitted that it is his body, rather than his heart, which has decided that the time is right to hang up his professional boots.
The 100-times capped Irish legend has announced that has brought to an end a professional career that has lasted more than 20 years and finished in the Airtricity League side Shamrock Rovers.
The 36-year-old was contracted to the Hoops for 2016, but manager Pat Fenlon admitted last month he was unsure if the high-profile signing would be able to commit for another season and today the player admitted that it was ultimately a decision that was made for him.
“After much deliberation, I have today decided to bring my professional football career to an end,” he said in a statement today.
“My heart wants me to continue playing but my body has finally won the battle and told me to stop.
“I’ve lived every young boy’s dream and I know I am a very lucky man. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the journey from schoolboy football in Dublin and moving to England as a teenager right up to today.”
The Dubliner began his career at Blackburn Rovers before Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri splashed out £17m for the winger’s services in 2003.
Duff’s time at Stamford Bridge was the most successful of his career, where he won two Premier League titles under Jose Mourinho before he left for Newcastle United three years later.
Duff later played for Fulham and Melbourne City before sticking to his vow to finish his career in Ireland when he signed for Fenlon’s Rovers in July. Duff revealed that he would be donating his wages to charity.
Duff appeared at the 2002 World Cup, where he scored against Saudi Arabia, as well as the European Championships 10 years later after which he decided to call time on his Ireland career.
“I am extremely proud to have won 100 caps for my country – it was always my greatest pleasure to represent Ireland and I have many magical memories from my international career,” he added.
“While I have finished playing, I am progressing with my coaching badges and will stay involved in the game for many years to come.
“I am grateful to Pat Fenlon & Shamrock Rovers F.C. for giving me the opportunity to finish my career back home - they have some exciting plans for the club for the future & I wish them well. I had hoped to play for one more year but it was not to be.
"Thank you to all the many fans for your support over the years.
"I would like to especially thank my wife Elaine, my children, my parents Gerard and Mary and my family for being, and continuing to be, my biggest supporters."
The FAI has hailed Duff as "one most exciting footballers this country has produced".
“Damien Duff will rightly be remembered as one of the greatest footballers ever to wear an Ireland jersey, and I’m sure all Irish fans will join me in wishing Damien the very best wishes in his retirement," said FAI CEO John Delaney.
“I remember him emerging as a young player and was delighted to see him go on to fulfil his tremendous potential, which ended with him captaining Ireland in his final international against Italy at Euro 2012.
“It was very pleasing that he chose to come home and see out his playing days in the SSE Airtricity League, and it was also great to see that he has opted to take his coaching qualifications with the FAI. If Damien’s coaching career comes even close to what he did as a player, well then there are even more exciting times ahead.”
Duff emerged as a real talent with the Republic of Ireland youth international sides and shone at the 1997 World Youth Championships Finals in Malaysia where he starred as Brian Kerr’s side reached the semi-finals and claimed third place in a historic achievement for Irish football.
Duff also played at the UEFA U18 Championships in 1997 although injury denied him a place at the successful 1998 UEFA U18 Championships campaign in Cyprus while he also represented his country at the 1999 World Youth Championships Finals in Nigeria.
He made his Ireland debut in 1998 against the Czech Republic and went on to become one of just six Irish players to reach 100 caps before his retirement from the international scene in 2012.