FORMER Ireland international John Thompson has been forced to call time on his career at the age of 31.
The Dubliner, part of the history-making Irish U-16 side which won the European Championship in 1998, has struggled to make a full comeback after suffering horrific facial injuries during a match for Mansfield Town.
Now Thompson has announced his retirement, ending that spell with Mansfield.
"I have desperately tried to get back playing to my full potential for almost two years now," said Thompson, capped once at senior level by Brian Kerr in 2003.
"It has been a hugely frustrating time but I have now reached a point where I can't continue.
"I have been fortunate enough to have had a great career and played for some good clubs.
"But after seeking medical advice and speaking to my family and friends I feel it is the right decision," added the former Nottingham Forest man.
Thompson's nightmare began during a pre-season friendly against Ilkeston Town, when a challenge on the Dubliner left him with long-term consequences.
"I had almost 60 stitches in my face, broke my nose, damaged my shoulder, and dislocated my finger. I needed to have a major operation on my nose so I could breathe through it again and I could only eat through a straw for nearly a month," he recalled.
"When I eventually got back playing after overcoming most of the physical issues, I soon realised I was doing things which I wouldn't normally do on the pitch.
"Panic attacks were common and I would not be able to sleep before games. My confidence on and off the pitch had been severely knocked.
"I have done everything I can, even seeing a psychologist at my own expense. My recovery is still ongoing. The last two years have been the hardest of my life."