Owing to injury, Irish hockey vice-captain Ciara O’Brien has announced her retirement from international hockey after amassing 156 caps in the green shirt over nine years. Throughout her career, Ciara played in many tournaments – the highlights being the 2002 World Cup in Australia and three European Championships, including a 5th place finish in front of a home crowd in Dublin in 2005.

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 commented: “This has been an extremely difficult decision to make especially as 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.”

Commenting on her retirement Coach Gene Muller said “Ciara has been a fixture in the heart of the Irish defence for many years.  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”

Ciara has played a part in Irish squads for 15 consecutive years – starting out on the Irish U16s against the Dutch in 1994 before representing Ireland at U18, U21 and senior level. She was also a leading member of Leinster Interprovincial teams captaining at U16, U18, U21 and senior level.

Ciara earned her first cap under Coach Riet Kuper against England in 2001 and went on to be a regular name in defence on the team sheet. Two years later, she earned her first of many milestones lining up against France to earn her 50th cap. Her 100th cap came against Italy in 2006 and 150th against Korea in 2008.

Reflecting upon her international career, O’Brien commented that there were many people who had helped her along the way. “I would like to thank many coaches – particularly Una McCarthy at Railway Union, Ger Butler at UCD, Riet Kuper for pushing me to train harder every day and Gene Muller for his belief and trust in me whilst being based away from home. I would also like to thank all of the management staff that I have had the pleasure of working with.”

Manager Sally Ann Fanagan who has worked with Ciara over the last number years was keen to pay tribute “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.”

Ciara also recognises the support that she has received from her employers. “I have put my career on hold over the past few years. I will never regret this decision as I have memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. However, combining post-graduate studies, work and international hockey would not have been possible without the generous support of my employers CB Richard Ellis, for which I am extremely grateful.”

“Most importantly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents, family, friends and fiancé, Dave, for their constant encouragement – I could not have pursued my dreams of playing for Ireland without them.”

“I wish Gene, Eimear and all the squad the very best of luck. Irish women’s hockey has come a long way over the past number of years and we, as players, have always recognised the generosity of Padraig McManus and all at ESB, the Irish Sports Council, OCI and Sport NI.  It is an exciting time and there is a lot of talent in the squad. I fully intend to support the girls wherever and whenever I can.” She continued.

All at the Irish Hockey Association would also like to take this opportunity to wish Ciara the best, particularly with her upcoming wedding and to thank her for her unquestionable commitment over the years as an international athlete.

Source: Irish Hockey Association