Belfast Telegraph

Emotional Aaron Hughes retires as a Northern Ireland hero after 21 year international career

 

Aaron Hughes
Aaron Hughes

Northern Ireland great Aaron Hughes has retired from football in the aftermath of Tuesday evening's win in Belarus.

The Cookstown man, who will be 40 in November, has been contemplating retirement for a number of months and, having left Hearts at the end of the club season, was said to be emotional after Northern Ireland's win as it marked the end of his career.

Hughes was an unused member of Michael O'Neill's squad for the double-header.

In his final appearance, he was given the captain's armband for Hearts when he came on in the 67th minute against Celtic on the final day of the Scottish Premiership season.

Before that match, his former Northern Ireland team-mate and Celtic boss Neil Lennon was joined by Hearts chief Craig Levein as they presented him with a commemorative gift to mark over 650 appearances for several clubs, including Hearts, Newcastle United, Fulham and Aston Villa.

With 112 appearances, the most capped outfield player in Northern Ireland's history will not reach legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings' record total of 119 while Steven Davis, on 109, should overtake him on the list.

He has one international goal - against the Faroe Islands in August, 2011 at Windsor Park.

The longest serving member of the current squad, the former Northern Ireland captain made his international debut against Slovakia when Lawrie McMenemy was in charge in 1998.

And he first skippered his country back in April, 2002 when Northern Ireland lost 5-0 to Spain at Windsor Park.

O'Neill encouraged Hughes not to retire from international football in October 2011 and he went on to feature in three of Northern Ireland's four matches at the Euro 2016 finals.

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