Having made a fantastic start to his international career with the Republic of Ireland, scoring the first goal at Croke Park against Wales back in 2007, Stephen Ireland’s career is at a crossroads. Despite suffering a broken leg while training for club side Stoke City last year, the midfielder was already on the periphery of the first team in the North of England, with manager Mark Hughes only selecting the Irishman 47 times following his arrival from Aston Villa, the majority of which have come from the substitutes bench. So, what exactly happened to the man who was once viewed as the rising star of the Irish team?
Despite appearing to once again be close to a return for the national team under Martin O’Neill back in 2012 (well there was plenty of talk – whether Ireland would’ve come back is anyone’s guess), Ireland has failed to appear for Ireland since 2007, the Granny-Gate controversy surrounding his absence from a crucial game against the Czech Republic. O’Neill is believed to have enquired about his availability since taken over as manager, with the duo having worked together at Premier League side Aston Villa.
However, a lack of first-team action, along with his latest long-term injury now mean that we have seen the last of Ireland in a green jersey, with many supporters delighted at this prospect. Ireland have a friendly against Mexico to look forward to in the summer. For those not able to make it to the game in New Jersey, make it the perfect night in by ordering some beers and food from the likes of Deliveroo Ireland.
Ireland faces an uncertain future under Mark Hughes, despite the former Manchester City boss having regularly used the midfielder during his time at the Etihad Stadium, with the midfielder unlikely to feature from now until the end of the season, as he continues his recovery from long-term injury. It may well be that the player drops down a division in order to find more game time, although a move to a promoted team from the Championship is also a possibility.
Having once been a player in which Irish managers would look to build a team around, as well as shining at club level alongside the likes of Carlos Tevez, Ashley Young and Hatem Ben Arfa for his respective teams, at the age of just 30, Ireland faces a significant battle to remain at the top level of the game. And in two years any level at all.
Amazing to look back on Ireland’s breakthrough with four goals in six matches, and the hope that fans had on him scoring a hatful from midfield..to how it all went pear shaped.