Stephen Ireland reflects on having to ‘pick Ireland over my kids’

From the age of 17 to 19 he was raising two young children alone, on £85 a week

Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Ireland has said that his short international career became a case of having to choose between his kids and his country.

In September 2007 he departed Steve Staunton's squad citing his grandmother's death. It would later emerge that this was a lie, and the former Manchester City and Aston Villa player would never feature for his country again.

Talking in an interview with subscription based website, The Athletic, the 33 year-old revealed that from the age of 17 to 19 he was raising two young children alone, on £85 a week, with his father in Ireland, his mother not speaking to him, and City he claims providing no player support at the time.

"It became a bit of a circumstance thing," he explains in the interview regarding his time in the green of Ireland. "Steve Staunton (the Ireland manager) said I could bring my kids and they would put them in a hotel room with a baby-sitter, but what kind of life is that for two kids? So I didn't do it and I had to pick and choose my moments that I could play for Ireland and when I couldn't. I just found the 10-day camps were too much for me to give."

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Ireland admits the lie about his grandmother - made up “in the heat of the moment” - became a much larger issue than he could’ve ever imagined. And was one he failed to deal with. His partner had actually suffered a miscarriage and the family were trying to keep the story to themselves.

“At that point I actually felt like retiring from football. I swear to god, I actually considered retiring from football. I text my accountant and said: ‘Do I have enough money to retire?’ And he said: ‘Yeah you do, but it depends how much is enough’, and I was quite young.

“I couldn’t sacrifice going to play for Ireland, because literally for some reason it became a case of having to pick Ireland over my kids, and all day I’m going to pick my kids.”