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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Ireland backed for international return

Stephen Ireland’s grandmother has called on Roy Keane to end the Stoke midfielder’s international exile with the Republic of Ireland.

Stephen Ireland could be in line to end his international exile with Ireland.
Stephen Ireland could be in line to end his international exile with Ireland.

Ireland, 27, has not represented his country since leaving a Euro 2008 qualifier against Slovenia saying his grandmother had died.

When it emerged that she hadn’t the then Manchester City player claimed it was his other grandmother before later attributing his mysterious exit to personal problems.

But now, one of the grandmothers that Ireland pretended had died has urged Ireland assistant Keane to consider the player ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifiers after a chance meeting on a flight.

"Well, I spoke with the grandmother this morning, she was on the flight coming over -- and she asked me would he get back involved," Keane is quoted as saying by the Irish Independent.

"I couldn't lie to her. I said he'd have a chance if he's playing well. I think [Ireland coach] Martin [O'Neill] had a conversation with him, and all that needs to fall into place.

"We all know how talented Stephen is and Martin will look at that.

"We wouldn't be shutting the door on any player.

"What is important for any player, and Stephen is the same, is it does help to be playing week-in week-out.

"He's obviously had a difficult spell. He's only just got a run of games at Stoke now. So I certainly wouldn't be ruling anyone out."

Ireland’s international exile began under Steve Staunton and he later turned down the opportunity to return under Giovanni Trapattoni.

However, although Ireland has not been called up by new manager Martin O’Neill, he has said the player is under consideration.

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