Chris Baird calls time on Northern Ireland career after 79 caps

Chris Baird has retired from Northern Ireland duty after earning 79 caps
Chris Baird has retired from Northern Ireland duty after earning 79 caps
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Defender Chris Baird admitted the “time was right” to call time on his international career.

Baird has confirmed that he was hanging up the Northern Ireland jersey for good after winning 79 caps.

The 34-year-old – who was a member of this summer’s historic Euro 2016 squad – brings the curtain down on a loyal 13-year stint with his country in order to focus on his club career with Derby County.

Baird made his debut against Italy in 2003 and ended it against Poland in this summer’s Euros.

He told the Irish Football Association website: “It was a tough decision because I have enjoyed every single minute that I have played for Northern Ireland.

“I discussed it with my family and as I am not getting any younger I felt it was the right thing to do at this stage.

“Qualification for Euro 2016 was the icing on the cake for my international career, but I have so many fantastic memories, like the win over England and beating Spain.

“I am fortunate to have lined out with some great players over the past 13 years and I would like to thank the managers, coaches and Irish FA staff that I have worked over that time.

“I would also like to thank the Northern Ireland fans who have been absolutely tremendous. It is true – they are the best supporters in the world.”

Baird – who has played at right-back, centre-back and more recently as a defensive midfielder for Northern Ireland – lined out in nine of the 10 qualification games that took Michael O’Neill’s side to Euro 2016.

The former Fulham star was a pivotal player for O’Neill as Northern Ireland reached their first-ever European Championship finals.

His international manager described the versatile midfielder as a “rock” during the stellar qualifying campaign, which saw Northern Ireland lose just one of their 10 games to finish top of their group.

“Chris has been an absolute rock for me in the four years that I have been in charge,” O’Neill said.

“His defensive qualities, his reading of the game and his experience have been invaluable, especially in our EURO 2016 qualification campaign.

“In addition to his football ability, he is also a fantastic person and we will miss him around the squad.

“Chris has been a tremendous servant to Northern Ireland.

“I fully respect his decision to retire from international football at this stage and I wish him every success as he continues his highly successful club career.”