Friday 23 February 2018

O'Neill in tribute to Healy

David Healy scored 36 goals in 95 games for Northern Ireland
David Healy scored 36 goals in 95 games for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill hailed David Healy as "an example to all current and future international players" after the country's record goalscorer announced his retirement.

Healy, who had been without a club since his release by Bury in the summer, won the hearts of Northern Ireland fans with 36 goals in 95 appearances.

While he holds the scoring record by a staggering 23 goals, he is also the nation's most capped outfield player and a fan favourite renowned for his unforgettable winner against England in 2005 and a hat-trick against Spain the following year.

The 34-year-old never managed anything as memorable at club level, but went on to play for the likes of Preston, Leeds, Sunderland, Fulham and Rangers having started his career with Manchester United.

His future now appears to be in a coaching capacity and O'Neill, for whom Healy scored the final goal of his career with a free-kick against Azerbaijan last November, would welcome his assistance.

"David Healy has and will always be an iconic player in the eyes of all Northern Ireland fans," he said.

"His commitment to playing for Northern Ireland is an example to all current and future international players.

"I know that David will have a lot to offer the game as he embarks on his coaching career.

"David has already performed a scouting role for the senior international team and assisted the U17 team as part of his development as a coach. I would like to thank David for his contribution to football in Northern Ireland and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Healy never featured at a major tournament, despite a stunning return of 13 goals in Euro 2008 qualifying, but leaves the game proud of his achievements.

"It has been an absolute honour and privilege to wear the Northern Ireland shirt, to represent the people of our proud wee country and I hope to continue in whatever way I can, in my new career in coaching, to help Northern Ireland succeed," said Healy.

"Over half my life has been dedicated to the game that I love and although you have to get on by your own efforts and making the best of your own abilities, my career would not have been anything like it has, without the help and support of so many people.

"To the Green and White Army, who have sang my name win or lose, goals or no goals, travelled to countries, some of which I don't think either I or they could even spell, my heartfelt thanks and respect to you all. I will see you in the Kop End!"

"There have been some pretty tough days in the Green shirt, let's be honest, but when we got it right and when I had the chance to play my part, those are the days that will stay in my memory forever."

The Irish FA will honour Healy with a ceremony at its competitive match at Windsor Park.

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