Aaron Hughes: Former Northern Ireland skipper retires after win over Belarus

Aaron Hughes

Hughes passed the 100-cap mark for Northern Ireland at Euro 2016

Former Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes has retired from football after his country’s Euro 2020 qualifier win over Belarus.

Current skipper Steven Davis said the 39-year-old spoke to the players after the 1-0 victory in Borisov.

Hughes, who did not speak publicly about his retirement, won 112 caps for his country, 48 as captain.

“Aaron spoke to us after the game and he was a little bit emotional, which is understandable,” said Davis.

“He has been a huge player for us over many years, such a consistent performer, and he will be remembered as a proper legend.

“Aaron still looks as if he could play on for a couple more years, but if he has made a decision to retire, we’ve got to respect that and wish him well.”

Hughes, who had been expected to retire after the international double header, was not in the matchday squad for the Belarus win.

He parted company last month with Hearts, having made seven appearances for the Scottish Premiership side last season.

Aaron Hughes and Michael O'Neill celebrate after Niall McGinn's goal in Northern Ireland's 2-0 win over Ukraine at Euro 2016<!–

Michael O’Neill convinced Hughes in 2012 to reverse his decision to quit Northern Ireland duty

Hughes caps haul seven short of Jennings record

The Cookstown-born defender holds the appearance record for a Northern Ireland outfield player and became the first outfield player to win 100 NI caps during Euro 2016.

Hughes’ haul of 112 caps leaves him seven him Northern Ireland’s record holder Pat Jennings although skipper Davis, who earned his 109th against Belarus, is in line to overtake the goalkeeping legend.

His last Northern Ireland appearances came in last summer’s trip to Central America, where he played in friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica.

The defender announced his retirement from international football in September 2011 but was coaxed to reverse that decision by then new manager Michael O’Neill six months later.

Hughes went on to help Northern Ireland qualify for their first major tournament in 30 years as they reached Euro 2016 and he played in three of his country’s four matches at the finals in France.

The former Northern Ireland captain made his debut during Lawrie McMenemy’s reign as manager in 1998 with his sole international goal coming against the Faroe Islands in 2011.

Hughes came through the ranks at Newcastle United and played more than 200 games for the club before spells with Aston Villa and Fulham.

Later in his career, he spent time with QPR, Brighton, Melbourne City and the Kerela Blasters in India before joining Hearts.

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