Former Derry captain Mark Lynch has announced his retirement from the inter-county game after 14 years of sterling service to the Oak Lead County.
The Banagher club man, who picked up an All Ireland Minor winning medal in 2002, has been one of the focal points of the senior squad over the past decade and was shortlisted for an All Star in 2014.
However, increased work and family commitments have prompted the 32-years-old to make a decision which he admits will 'break his heart'.
"As someone who grew up wanting to represent my club and county, I feel privileged that I got the chance to do both," said Lynch
“But there is a time for everything and with current family and work commitments, now feels like the right time for me to retire from county football and devote those extra energies to other areas of my life.
“I thank my family, club, all the players, coaches, managers, and support teams who have made my county career possible.
“Playing for Derry was something I always enjoyed and it breaks my heart to think I won’t do it again. For me there was always a real buzz wearing the red and white and representing my county, my club and my community. "
Despite his departure, Lynch believes Derry have a bright future under Damian McErlain.
“There are a lot of talented young footballers with bright futures coming through in Derry. I remember myself the step up from minor to senior level and how it forced me to really work and develop all areas of my game.
"We need to give this latest crop the same space, opportunity and encouragement. I wish Damian McErlain and all the squad every success for the season ahead. I look forward to going with my family to support the lads because that’s what people did for me."
Commenting on the retirement Derry Senior Manager Damian McErlain described Lynch as a "manager's dream."
“Mark Lynch is a class act who has given unstinting service to Derry football for many years," explained the Derry manager, " He was a manager’s dream and a role model who made a real positive impact on all the players around him.
“In addition to his physical presence and skill, Mark also has a great footballing brain. Whether it was kicking long range points or those trademark surging runs, Mark Lynch was always a leader. He was someone you always wanted on the ball. Mark will be missed but we wish him well in the next chapter of his life.”
A County Board statement also paid tribute to Lynch's contribution across a superb county career.
“When Mark Lynch arrived on the football scene it was clear that he was a young player with immense potential," said a spokesperson for Derry GAA.
“An All-Ireland minor winner in 2002 at 16 years-of-age, Mark was always an exceptional player. His progression from minor to senior ranks was testament to this with Mickey Moran handing him his senior debut in 2004.
“If you say the name Mark Lynch people across county Derry would maybe say: strong, powerful, natural, versatile, accurate, intelligent, modest, dedicated, team player, and leader. Every single description is correct.
“Mark Lynch always stood up, never stepped back, and always made an impact on the pitch no matter where he played. Any team with Mark in it was the better for it.
“Mark is more than just a quality footballer, he is an honest, genuine person who has given many years service to Derry and for that we are forever grateful.
“We wish Mark and his wife Bernie and their young family every health and happiness in the future.”