Republic of Ireland centurion John O'Shea has penned an open letter to Irish supporters announcing his decision to retire from international football next month.
The Waterford-born defender released the letter (see in full below) this evening reflecting on a stellar international career and paying tribute to many people that have helped him along the way.
"After 22 years of representing my country (17 at senior level) it is with great sadness & joy that I will be pulling on the Republic of Ireland jersey for the last time on the 2nd of June in the Aviva Stadium," begins the letter.
"It has been an amazing journey but I feel now is the right time to step aside for the next generation to enjoy the experiences I am so humbled to have been part of.
"We have just passed the 20th anniversary of the Ireland Under 16s winning the UEFA European Championships in Scotland and it is fitting that the current U17 squad are now competing on the same stage.
"I still look back at that particular triumph as the real starting point for my international career. I’m sure the young lads making up Colin O’Brien’s squad will be loving every minute of the tournament; just like I did under Brian Kerr and the late Noel O’Reilly."
The 37-year-old mentions captaining the Boys in Green and featuring at two European Championships (Euro 2012 & Euro 2016) among the highlights of his long international career.
O'Shea is just one of six Irish internationals to hit the century mark of appearances and of the 117 games he played for his country, he started in 111 of those.
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, who led the team to Euro 2016 in France, lauded O'Shea for a great career.
"John has had a great career internationally and played at the very top at club level with Manchester United, where he won a lot of trophies," said O'Neill.
"For any player to get over 100 caps is a magnificent feat and he can be very proud of that achievement. I will always remember John's goal away to Germany in Gelsenkirchen. He doesn't score too many goals so that made it even more special.
"I wish John the very best for the future and I'm sure he will become an excellent coach. And if he wants to I'm sure he has the capabilities of becoming a manager too."
FAI chief executive John Delaney also paid tribute to his fellow Waterford man and revealed plans for his send-off in Dublin next month.
"When you watched him play it was clear to see how much it meant to him to be representing his country and that kind of commitment inspired players and supporters across many generations," said Delaney
"John is one of the most decorated Irish players of the modern era due to his tremendous success with Manchester United, but he will be known more for his leadership - on and off the pitch.
"Whether it was with Sunderland or Ireland, John led by example and others followed. Just like his father, Jim, who was a gentleman, John has and always will be a passionate supporter of Irish football.
"We will pay tribute to John at the United States game on June 2. I hope the Ireland supporters will turn out in force to give a deserved send-off to one of the most committed players ever to pull on the green jersey."
JOHN O'SHEA OPEN LETTER TO IRELAND SUPPORTERS - IN FULL:
After 22 years of representing my country (17 at senior level) it is with great sadness & joy that I will be pulling on the Republic of Ireland jersey for the last time on the 2nd of June in the Aviva Stadium.
It has been an amazing journey but I feel now is the right time to step aside for the next generation to enjoy the experiences I am so humbled to have been part of.
We have just passed the 20th anniversary of the Ireland Under 16s winning the UEFA European Championships in Scotland and it is fitting that the current U17 squad are now competing on the same stage. I still look back at that particular triumph as the real starting point for my international career. I’m sure the young lads making up Colin O’Brien’s squad will be loving every minute of the tournament; just like I did under Brian Kerr and the late Noel O’Reilly.
I always wanted to play as much as I could at senior level and to now have 117 caps has truly been an honour.
There have been many highlights, such as leading Ireland out as captain, featuring at two UEFA European Championships, and getting to share a pitch alongside so many committed and talented players over the years.
It is a similar sentiment with regard to my managers at international level – Mick McCarthy, Brian Kerr, Steve Staunton, Don Givens, Giovanni Trapattoni, Noel King, and Martin O’Neill, they placed their trust in me and I hope that I paid them back in a small way by always giving everything on the pitch.
I would also like to acknowledge the support I have always received from Sunderland and, prior to that, Manchester United, in particular, Sir Alex Ferguson who is in my thoughts at the moment - get well soon Boss!
I’ve never taken anything in life for granted and the passing in the last year of my Dad, Jim, and my friend & team-mate Liam Miller has shown me that every moment in life (not just football) should be cherished.
I have certainly cherished my international career, it will be emotional walking out for the final time in front of the Ireland supporters. But it is now time to say thank you and allow others to lead the team forward, it’s been an amazing honour to wear our green shirt.
I would like to thank my family especially, my Mam, Mary, and brother Alan, who have given me nothing but support over the years, my friends, my underage coaches, especially at Ferrybank and Bohemians (Waterford), my schools Ferrybank BNS and De La Salle college, my team-mates, every staff member who has helped me through the years, my managers, and, most importantly, the Ireland supporters – it was always a real privilege to play in front of you!
To my wife, Yvonne, I thank you for your constant support, and to my kids, Alfie and Ruby, we can look forward to watching Ireland games together as supporters.