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Last week, Mick McCarthy named five Burnley players in his provisional squad for the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia. Yesterday, when he finalised his squad, that number was reduced to two.

1819 burnley stephen ward 00 500x500Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady remain in the squad while Kevin Long and Jimmy Dunne have been omitted. Leaving with Long and Dunne is Stephen Ward who, having won fifty caps for his country, has decided to call time on his international career.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ward said: “It’s with a heavy heart that I do this, retiring from the Ireland team was something I never wanted to do but this was just the right time. At this stage of my career, at this age and where I am at, I just needed to make this decision.

“I have been incredibly proud to play for my country but I have travelled a lot over the years and been away from my family. My family have been in Birmingham while I was in Burnley and that’s not been easy so this will be better for me family-wise. I missed out on a lot of time with them and sometimes you make a decision for your family’s sake.”

McCarthy was surprised: “I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “I think he was surprised and pleased that he had been named in the squad, I guess he shouldn’t have been, knowing it was me, so I wasn’t pre-empting anything, I put him in the squad knowing that if I needed Wardy he would turn up.”

The new Ireland boss was the manager who brought Ward into English football back in 2007 with Wolves and played him initially as a forward before his move to left-back. He added: “I’m kind of sad that I don’t get to work with him with Ireland. He’s had a really good career and I’m sad to see him go but he wanted to be fair to me, fair to the other players, and fair to himself.”

Ward has had a difficult season at Burnley brought about due to him having knee surgery. He hasn’t played in the Premier League since early season but did feature in the FA Cup games in January. He’s been on and off the bench since in the league but has not been able to win his place back from Charlie Taylor.

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