STEPHEN IRELAND REMAINS one of Irish football’s most divisive figures, but the 25-year-old has moved on from the controversy surrounding his decision to abandon the international squad in 2007.
Ireland initially fell foul of FAI management when he was discovered to have lied about the death of his grandmother to avoid attending a qualifying game for the 2008 European Championships. Though it later emerged the midfielder’s girlfriend had suffered a miscarriage, relations between the Manchester City midfielder and his international colleagues deteriorated in the days following the incident.
He has not played for or trained with the international squad since.
Speaking to the Daily Star, Ireland suggested the months following this summer’s European Championships might be an opportune time to launch an international comeback:
“Obviously I’ve matured as a person since then. Things are much more settled and I’m at a club where I am playing. Now the kids are putting pressure on me to play for Ireland… it all could have been dealt with in a better way at the time. But even if it had been I’d still have needed that big gap at some stage anyway…
“But I really don’t know the answer. It came across as if it was a burden to me to play for my country – but that’s not the case.”
Having previously frustrated several attempts to broker a reconciliation, the 25-year-old’s about-face is likely to be met with skepticism on the part of Republic boss Giovanni Trappatoni.