Equally comfortable in defence, midfield or attack, Stephen Ward joined Bohemians from Portmarnock before being signed by Wolves manager Mick McCarthy in January 2007 for a reported €175,000. He had previously been capped by the Irish schools and he had featured for Don Given's Republic of Ireland under 21 squad in the European Championship qualifiers in 2006. Ward scored the winning goal for Ireland in a friendly U21 match against Sweden at United Park, Drogheda, in 2006.
He made his senior debut for Ireland in a 5-0 win over Northern Ireland in the Carling Nations' Cup in May 2011. He had played for Wolves in several positions as they battled successfully to retain their place in the Premier League. He was at left-back for Ireland against the North and scored the first goal of the game with a lightning strike following a corner kick. He again impressed at left-back as Ireland beat Scotland to win the inaugural Carling Nations Cup on May 29, 2011.
Stephen impressed again at left-back as Ireland beat Italy in a friendly in June 2011 and retained his place for the friendly against Croatia in August. He was given his first start in a competitive match when he was left-back against Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium in the UEFA Championship of 2012. His consistency meant he was an automatic replacement for the reliable Kevin Kilbane when injury brought his distinguished career to an end during the qualifying tournament for EURO 2012.
Stephen spent many of his underage years as a centre-forward and was a striker in the League of Ireland with Bohemians. He again showed his eye for goal with a cracking strike against Estonia in the second leg of the EURO 2012 play-off at the Aviva Stadium.
He joined Brighton in a season-long loan from Wolves in August 2013 and was recalled for Martin O'Neill's first games in charge of the national team in November 2013. He joined Burnley in August 2014.
Stephen helped the Clarets regain their Premier League status in 2016. He scored Ireland's goal against Belarus in Turner's Cross in their final warm-up game for UEFA EURO 2016.