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Aug 22, 2010

Ireland draws line under international career

Stephen Ireland has revealed he was the subject of hate mail and threats as he brought a conclusive end to the debate over his international future.

The controversial midfielder who signed for Aston Villa last Thursday has hit out at Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni and Irish soccer chiefs as he severed all ties with the international set-up he has refused to be a part of over the last three years.

Ireland's possible return to his national team has long been a subject of debate in his homeland, but it seems he has decided once and for all that he wants no part of Ireland's upcoming Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

"It was a very difficult time for my family and I when my Ireland career came to an end because some of the abuse that came our way pretty nasty," says Ireland, who joined Aston Villa as part of a £24 million transfer last Thursday.

"We received a lot of bad press, hate mail, the odd threat that was pretty scary and when you have been through something like that, you don't want put yourself in that position again. This is why I have no intention of playing for Ireland again. It's just not something that interests me and I haven't missed it for one moment.

"There was a lot of stuff around that time which was unpleasant. Personal abuse, trouble for my family and there were things going on around my house that were not nice. I suppose I brought some of it on myself, so I had to accept it and get on with it.

"While I don't have regrets about anything I've done in my career, I accept some of the negative publicity that came my way was because of my own actions. I decided not to play for Ireland any more and some people took offence to that.

"You might think I'd go back just to stop my family getting abuse, but the people around me would never put any pressure on me to do something just for their sake and so long as I have my family close to me, I don't care what anyone else things about me.

"What my critics don't realise is I'm not this over-confident, over-paid footballer they read about. I'm actually a quiet guy who lacks a lot of self belief and that may be part of the reason why I never felt at home in the Ireland set up.

"I'm also the first to admit my confidence has taken a big hit in the last few months because I was pushed out of Manchester City and I have to rebuild my career and confidence at Villa.

"However, just because I'm about to get my career moving again, hopefully, it doesn't mean I'll reconsider my future as far as Ireland goes. That is not a question I need to answer any more."

Ireland admits the meeting he had with national team boss Giovanni Trapattoni was 'strange and bizarre' and in an outburst akin for fellow Cork maverick Roy Keane, he has suggested FAI officials in Dublin are out of touch with reality.

"A lot of changes need to be made within the FAI before we move in the right direction," Ireland said. "I've had problems with the FAI dating back to the days when I was playing for the junior Ireland sides. I used to get trains at 6.30am in the morning to go up to Dublin to meet up with the squad and I was left at the station and told to find my own way to the training base.

"I've never felt as if I was treated very well by the FAI officials as it always seemed like a big graft to have to go and play in their teams, so I came to the decision that I don't want to do it any more.

"I watch Ireland matches like anyone else might do at this stage, but I don't feel a part of it at all. It doesn't make me feel like I should go back play again. That question is gone for me and the answer won't change my mind."

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