Irish vice-captain Ciara O’Brien has been forced to announce her retirement from international hockey due to injury after amassing 156 caps in the green shirt over the past nine years.
O’Brien has suffered from a degenerative, arthritic condition in both knees over the past year and her decision has been based on medical advice.
She said of her decision: “I was determined to overcome my injuries and play a role within the squad at the upcoming Europeans in August. However, I have had to consider the long term implications of continuing to train and compete at international level and have unfortunately been forced to make the decision to retire.”
O’Brien has been a stalwart of the Irish defence in recent year, playing in the 2002 World Cup in Australia as well as three European Championships, including a fifth place finish in front of a home crowd in Dublin in 2005.
Following a glittering underage career where she captained the Irish U-16, 18 and 21 teams, she earned her first cap under Riet Kuper against England in 2001 and racked up 50 caps within two years. Her 100th cap came against Italy in 2006 and 150th against Korea in 2008.
Current national coach Gene Muller led the tributes to one of Ireland’s great: “Her 156 international appearances make her one of the most capped players in Irish hockey history.
“She has been enormously influential in our team, and was a very consistent and effective international performer. Her attitude and approach was always professional and her service to Irish hockey is greatly valued. I wish her well for the future.”
Irish manager Sally Ann Fanagan added: “Ciara has had a fantastic international career over the past 9 years. During all that time she has been a model professional, setting herself very high standards in both her preparation and her application to international duty. She will be sorely missed within the squad.”