'I never thought this day would come' - Bohs captain Derek Pender retires
DEREK Pender says it was an "honour" to captain Bohemians in the latter years of his career as he has decided to retire from playing at the end of this season.
Pender (35) has been a key figure at Dalymount Park since he joined from St Patrick's Athletic at the start of the 2012 season but even though boss Keith Long wanted him to play on next term as Bohs prepare for Europa League football, the former Belvedere player has decided to retire.
"After 17 years playing in our great league, the time has come for me to announce my retirement. I never thought this day would come, it still doesn't fell real," Pender said.
"I was always a massive fan of our league. I used to bunk into Dalymount, Tolka and watch in awe of the greats like Owen Heary, Kevin Hunt, Stuart Byrne, Jason Byrne, Jim Crawford and Glen Crowe.
"Not many people have the opportunity to spend 17 years doing what they truly love to do. I have been fortunate to be able to do so yet here I am announcing my retirement as Bohs captain.
"I can't say I will look back at my career without any regrets. Football gives you the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows. That's why we love it.
"Tomorrow will be the last time I lead our team out in Dalymount. I'm actually dreading it because I'm going to miss it so much. Friday nights in Dalymount are so special to me. Our fans are the best in the world.
"I will never forget the semi-finals we had this year and last season. Those games will burn at me forever but I will always remember Turner's Cross and the Jodi after both those games and the love we got from our fans."
Pender began his senior career with Shelbourne and after loan spells with Dundalk and Crusasders he lined out for Dublin City, Shamrock Rovers, Bray Wanderers and St Pat's.
"You don't get that at any other club. I thank every one of you. It has been an honour."