Tuesday 20 March 2018

Decorated goalkeeper Emma Byrne calls time on her 21-year Ireland career

Emma Byrne
Emma Byrne
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Emma Byrne has hung up her boots after 21 years of service with the Republic of Ireland.

The 38-year-old Leixlip native made her debut for Ireland as a 17-year-old back in 1996 and has been an integral part of the squad ever since.

She joined Arsenal in 2000, having playing previously with St Patrick's Athletic and Danish side Fortuna Hjorring, and was part of a hugely successful period in the Gunners' history.

Her time there yielded a UEFA Women's Champions League winners medal in 2007, two FA Women's Super League crowns, nine FA Women's Premier League National Division titles, nine FA Women's Cups, three FA Women's Super League Cups and five FA Women's Premier League Cups.

Byrne, capped 134 times for Ireland (a record), was also an integral figure as the Irish players reached an agreement regarding working conditions with the Football Association of Ireland earlier this year.

Announcing her decision on Twitter today, she wrote: "It has been an honour to represent and captain our amazing country. 23 years wearing the Irish jersey has brought so many happy memories and many invaluable friendships that I will treasure for the rest of my life," she said.

"I feel extremely proud 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. Adh mór oraibh xx."

She left Arsenal at the end of the 2016 campaign and joined WSL 2 side Brighton & Hove Albion in January.

John Delaney, FAI CEO, said: "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.

"Emma was a fantastic goalkeeper and ambassador for the women's game. I would like to thank Emma for her tremendous service and wish her and her family the very best for the future."

Niamh O'Donoghue, Chairperson of the Women's Football Committee, added: "I'm sorry to hear of Emma's decision to retire from international football.

"From the time that she first burst onto the underage international stage at age 14 she has been a fantastic servant to the women's game, representing her country at every age level and winning multiple honours at club level.

"She has always been a tremendous role model for young girls and I wish her continued success in the game and look forward to seeing her contribute as a coach, educator and commentator in the future."

Colin Bell, Ireland WNT Head Coach, paid tribute to Byrne by saying: "I'd like to thank Emma for her professionalism and her contribution to the squad in the short time that I've been the Head Coach.

"Emma's achievements at international level are rarely seen in the game and for her to represent her country over the course of 21 years is something most of us can only dream of.

"As we head into a new qualification campaign for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, I think the timing for her decision is correct. Going forward, Marie Hourihan will be the new No.1 but it's important we continue to see Amanda Budden and Amanda McQuillan progress and challenge for that spot."

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