Ireland apologises for grandmother of all excuses

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The Independent Football

An Irish player has admitted lying to his national team manager - claiming his grandmother had died - in order to skip a European Championship qualifier.

Stephen Ireland came clean after officials at the Football Association of Ireland and his professional club, Manchester City, discovered that both grandmothers were still alive.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who skipped Ireland's 1-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Wednesday, said he fabricated the story to cover up the real reason he wanted to go home early: His girlfriend had just suffered a miscarriage.

"Jessica said she was very lonely and wanted me to come home. She said she thought they might let me home quicker if they thought my grandmother had died," Ireland said in a statement.

The FAI chartered a private jet to get the player home from Slovakia, where the team had played a 2-2 draw Saturday. But the Ireland manager, Stephen Staunton, called the player on Monday after FAI officials found out that his maternal grandmother in Cork, southwest Ireland, had not died as he claimed.

Ireland said he then told Staunton it was his other grandmother, in London, who had passed away. But Manchester City officials soon discovered this was false too.

"I realize now that it was a massive mistake on my part to tell the FAI and Manchester City that my grandmothers had died, and I deeply regret it," he said. "The miscarriage that Jessica suffered last Saturday has caused both of us a lot of heartache and had caused us both to panic."

The player apologized to his family, particularly his grandmothers, and to officials of both teams.

Staunton said he accepted the apology. He said Ireland was "a player who loves playing for his country and unfortunately made a poor judgment call because of the traumatic circumstances he found himself in."

Ireland scored his team's first goal in the draw with Slovakia. The loss to the Czech Republic means the Irish team only has a small chance of reaching the 2008 tournament.

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