calling time | 

Former Ireland star Stephen Ward hanging up his boots after ‘giving everything I could’

Stephen Ward in action during his Ireland days. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Aidan Fitzmaurice

AFTER a run which included 50 caps, 171 Premier League games and appearances at two European Championships finals, Stephen Ward has announced his retirement from football, at the age of 36, with immediate effect.

And as he reflects on a career with Bohemians, Wolves, Brighton, Burnley, Stoke, Ipswich and current club Walsall, the Portmarnock native says his international caps were without doubt the highlight of his time in the game.

“My head and my body were telling me it was the right time but I have played my last game, I have given everything I could to the game,” Ward told the Irish Independent last night, ending a career which began as a teenager under Stephen Kenny at Bohemians.

“It was a long road and a good journey. When I joined Bohs 19 years ago, I just wanted to have a good League of Ireland career and try to get to England. I never dreamed I’d win one cap, never mind 50.

“From day one I was determined to make the most of the talent that I had, I left no stone unturned and even after a few injuries and operations, I was able to play for almost 20 years, and live out every kid’s dream.

“Every kid wants to play football but so few get to play for their country, there is no better feeling than that.

“There’s no doubt that playing for Ireland was the absolute highlight.”

Ward has made 30 appearances for League Two side Walsall this season but he’s decided that a game on Good Friday, a 1-0 win over Carlisle, will be his last time on the field . He will watch Walsall’s final three games of the from the sideline as the Saddlers’ league status is now secure.

Ward has been doing media work – he covered Burnley’s game against Southampton for Sky Sports last night – and coaching while with Walsall, and he hopes to continue progressing with the latter.

“I will stay in the game, I have some of my coaching badges and I have been doing some work at academy level so hopefully I’ll have time to plan the next move,” he says.

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