Sunday 17 December 2017

Slim hope for Ireland’s late Euro 2012 bid

JUST 122 days to go now before it all kicks off in Poland and Ukraine, but closer to home, another race has begun in earnest.

The Stephen Ireland sideshow is back in town. Just three days ago Ireland was clearly seen on camera, during a game, telling his manager at club level Alex McLeish to “f*** off” after Ireland was criticised by McLeish for not putting in a tackle which could have at least made it harder for Newcastle United to score against Villa.

And subsequently, for the second time in three weeks, Ireland’s girlfriend has gone into battle on her fellah’s behalf, saying “I hope that Stephen will play for Ireland again soon”.

That came just weeks after she told a Sunday newspaper that she also wished to see Ireland back in the green shirt and in the middle of all that came a photo shoot organised by Ireland’s club when he was pictured with the backdrop of the Irish flag alongside the 10 other Irish players who are currently at the club.

They posed under the same flag but there was one clear difference between Stephen Ireland and the other ten Irish Villains: whether they were established internationals like Shay Given or Richard Dunne, hopefuls on the fringe like Ciaran Clark or Enda Stevens, or young kids with dreams of just winning a senior cap like Kilkenny native Mikey Drennan and Waterford lad Derrick Williams, they all want to play for their country and do so on a regular basis, sometimes at great personal cost - think of the blood which Dunne spilled in Moscow in the line of duty last year.

Since he walked out on his team-mates in Slovakia back in 2007, Stephen Ireland has made it clear, time and again, that international football is not something which excites or even interests him.

Perhaps it’s all about the timing: Ireland may have seen the ticker on the uefa website counting down to the finals in Poland/Ukraine, realised that it’s coming close and that he may want a part of it.

Whatever about his talent, Ireland has no hope of making it onto the plane to Gdansk in June.

Meanwhile, Marc Wilson, who despite being frozen out by Trapattoni, said he would not entertain any approaches by Northern Ireland to play for them despite the guarantee of caps with the North. “I don’t just want to play international football. I want to play for the Republic and no one else,” he said. Words that Stephen

Ireland should read over.

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