Bohemians defender Derek Pender has announced that he'll retire from football at the end of the season.
The 35-year-old says he's enjoyed a 17-year career with 'the highest of highs and lowest of lows' and admits he's 'dreading' being away from the game.
"After 17 years playing in our great league, the time has come for me to announce my retirement. I never thought this day would come, it still doesn’t feel real”, said Pender.
"I was always a massive fan of our league. I used to bunk into Dalymount, Tolka and watch in awe of the greats like Owen Heary, Kevin Hunt, Stuart Byrne, Jason Byrne, Jim Crawford and Glen Crowe.
"Not many people have the opportunity to spend 17 years doing what they truly love to do. I have been fortunate to be able to do so yet here I am announcing my retirement as Bohs captain.
"I can’t say I will look back at my career without any regrets. Football gives you the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows. That’s why we love it.
"Tomorrow will be the last time I lead our team out in Dalymount. I’m actually dreading it because I’m going to miss it so much.
"Friday nights in Dalymount are so special to me. Our fans are the best in the world.
"I particularly want to thank Keith. He made me captain when he arrived and gave me the best playing years of my career. I will be forever grateful to you.
"To all the staff – Trevor, Benno, Remy, Cathal, Robbie, Paul, Colly and Aaron – thank you.
"To the volunteers and staff at Bohemians – Daniel, Stephen, Chris, Lynn, Paul, Luke, Matt – and all the members, volunteers who I’ve got to know over the years, you are what make this club special. Thank you.
"To all my team-mates, I’m going to miss being the grumpy old man! Thank you for an amazing season. Against all the odds, we have qualified for Europe.
"Stay together. There is no better place to be than this great club."
Pender's last match as a player will be Bohs' clash with Sligo at Dalymount Park tomorrow night and manager Keith Long says they're keen to keep him at the club in some capacity next season.
“If you are looking for a reason why this club is what it is today, then look no further than Derek.
“He is respected in every dressing room up and down the country and he has driven ours.
“The players adore him, respect him and would do anything for him.
“He is a real leader who goes about his business without any fanfare. His story, I believe, is a true inspiration for us all.
“Derek will remain at the club next year in a capacity yet to be determined but as far as I am concerned, he will have a huge role to play in our identity and how the club moves forward.
“Any Bohs player can look to Derek as inspiration and what you can achieve through honesty of effort and dedicating yourself to the game.”