Fans and fellow professional footballers have paid tribute to Gareth McAuley after he announced he would be hanging up his boots in an emotional post on social media.
The Larne native, who represented clubs in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland, as well as winning 80 caps for Northern Ireland, took to Twitter to announce that last season was his last as a player.
He said he was now looking forward to spending time with his family and enjoying some of the things he has missed out on over the years.
Part of the Northern Ireland squad at the European Championships in 2016, McAuley’s name was added to the list of local sporting greats when he scored his country’s first goal at the finals in a tie with Ukraine in Lyon.
Posting on the Northern Ireland National Team Facebook page, a spokesperson for the IFA said: “A legend retires. Thanks Gareth McAuley for the memories.”
Commenting on Facebook, a spokesperson for the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs said: “After 80 appearances, nine goals and having given many of us a moment we’ll never forget, we say... Thank You, Gareth McAuley!”
Congratulating Gareth on his career, current Northern Ireland and Aberdeen player, Niall McGinn said: “Absolute pleasure to have played with you mate for Northern Ireland. Top guy and great player.”
Current Watford goalkeeper and former West Brom team mate, Ben Foster said: “Congrats G!!!!! It was a pleasure mate!! Surely the best free signing
West Brom have ever made!!”
Commenting on Twitter, Liam Ridgewell, who played alongside Gareth at The Hawthorns said: “Pleasure playing with you G.”
Northern Irish media personality, Zoe Salmon praised Gareth on Twitter. She said: “Thank you Gareth for everything you’ve done for NI. We’re all so proud of you and your success. Happy retirement and enjoy your new challenges.”
Wishing Gareth well in a post on the PSNI Larne Facebook page, Sergeant McIlroy said: “Local legend Gareth McAuley MBE has decided it’s time to hang up his boots.
“He is a role model for many in Larne to look up to, and see what you can achieve with dedication and hard work and a bit of natural talent I suppose. Enjoy your retirement Gareth!”