A GRANDMOTHER of Irish footballer Stephen Ireland has passed away – several years after he left an Ireland squad following her ‘death’.
The 27-year-old Corkman missed an international match in 2007 on the basis that his paternal grandmother Brenda Kitchener had died – something that became a major talking point when it emerged she was still alive.
It later emerged that Ireland’s partner Jessica Lawlor had suffered a miscarriage, and there had been confusion over ‘a death in the family’.
Ms Lawlor (27) has now confirmed that Ms Kitchener, who was based in London, has only died “last week”.
Ireland, who now plays for Stoke, had initially said in 2007 that his maternal grandmother had died, but later said it was his paternal grandmother.
He subsequently pulled out of another Ireland squad and has not been part of the team in recent years – although he is now believed to be interested in returning.
Ireland gave his take on the ‘Grannygate’ affair to the Daily Telegraph a couple of years ago, saying he received a call from his distressed girlfriend just hours before Ireland's clash in Slovakia.
"She was crying like mad, saying she'd had a miscarriage," said Ireland, who kept the news to himself and scored in the 2-2 draw.
But the then Ireland boss Steve Staunton had heard something else on his return to the dressing room.
The player said: "The boss said there'd been a death in my family. My girlfriend had rang Steve's secretary and told her that.
"She just wanted me home and she didn't want to tell a complete stranger that she'd had a miscarriage."
So Ireland flew home to find that media reports were saying that his grandmother had died.
He added: "I thought 'Oh, no!' They'd dug a hole for me. A big hole. Steve said I should have just told him the truth. At the time, though, it was just chaos.”
The couple now have a four-year-old son Jacob and a son Joshua (8) and daughter Jessica (6) from Stephen's previous relationship.