Healy's highlights

Published Tuesday, 03 December 2013
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And so the curtain falls on one of the most iconic playing careers in Northern Ireland football.

David Healy has announced his retirement from football at the age of 34. He can travel towards his playing sunset in the knowledge he is Northern Ireland's record goal-scorer, he is the man who's hat-trick sank a Spain side at Windsor Park that was just a few years from European and world football greatness, and he is the man who's goal beat a stunned and star-studded England at Windsor Park.

Just some of the moments fans will point to as they say to Healy - 'thanks for the memories'.

The songs from the Windsor Park stands are synonomous with his exploits over the past decade and more as 'Healy, Healy' reverberated around the famous old ground for years.

February 23, 2000 - Healy made his debut - and announced his arrival with two goals in the 3 - 1 win at Luxembourg - the tone was set.

In latter years, beset by injuries and not helped by a lack of club action, his influence, goals and appearances tailed off.

But by then his status as a cult hero was long since assured.

But even through the times when things were not so good, it was Healy who always carried a nation's hopes.

1,298 painful, goal-less minutes had passed for Northern Ireland - an unwanted record - and it was eventually broken by none other than Healy.

Never has a goal been cheered more, despite the team eventually slipping to a 4 - 1 defeat to Norway.

Healy had his start in his home village of Killyleagh and also featured in the Crossgar and Lisburn Youth Leagues, but a measure of his immense potential was illustrated when in the late-1990s he was whisked off to the famous Manchester United youth set up by Alex Ferguson.

This was a United squad where Eric Cantona was coming towards the end of his glittering stay.

Healy would also have shared a training pitch with the greats of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, the Nevilles' and more.

He made his first team debut at Old Trafford, before going on to nine other clubs in England throughout his career - Sunderland, Leeds United and Fulham, just some of those famous old names.

Knowing David and the family though there was always one more dream, particularly for dad Clifford to achieve - and even that one was fulfiled when in January 2011, Healy signed for Glasgow Rangers.

Healy showed his immense goal-scoring ability - having scored on his Leeds, Fulham, Sunderland, Doncaster and Northern Ireland debuts - he repeated the trick for the Ibrox men - coming off the bench to get the final goal in a 6 - 0 rout of Motherwell - truly a boy's own story.

Healy would stay with Rangers until the end of season 2011-12 before seeing out the twilight of his club career with Bury.

Healy collected a UEFA award for his record 13 goals in one European Championship campaign, and collected an MBE from Buckingham Palace.

Unfortunately though, as for everyone, father time caught up with David in the final years of his playing career.

Injuries began to take their toll - Healy left Bury in the summer.

Several opportunities had come up through the summer to finish his career abroad, but David has been brave enough to make the decision that he wants to take his time in football in a different direction - and is interested in coaching.

Come what may though, this will almost certainly not be the end of Healy's contribution to the game and the knowledge he can now pass down to the future striking talent coming through the ranks for Northern Ireland could be the next addition to his story.

© UTV News
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Chris Brennan
Chris Brennan

Chris Brennan is a cross-platform sports journalist with UTV.

As well as featuring on UTV Live and contributing to u.tv, Chris can be heard regularly on U105, fronting the station's sports coverage.

Chris started his career part-time, whilst still at school, with the Down Recorder newspaper in Downpatrick and then began freelancing when at college and university.

It was at this stage that he moved into broadcasting and began freelancing for UTV in 2004.

Chris is a graduate of Queen's University Belfast, where he graduated in Modern History and Politics.

Apart from his huge appetite for all sport - but especially football - his other interests include history and travel.

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