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Play for Ireland? I'd rather be home in my blinging pad

HE'S seen as a traitor by tens of thousands of Irish supporters -- to others he's better known for his blinged-up lifestyle.

And now the Aston Villa midfielder has brought the cameras into his Footballers' Wives-style mansion to show off his home.

In a stunning spread in tomorrow's VIP magazine, the 24-year-old opens his home -- and his heart -- to the magazine. He reiterates that he has no regrets about bowing out of playing for Ireland, and that the matter is now "over".

The former Manchester City star has revealed how there is no doubt in his mind about where his future lies in football -- and he will never do a U-turn on his controversial self-imposed exile from the national squad.



Crunch

He has not been a member of the Irish team since September 2007 when 'Grannygate' erupted ahead of a crunch game against the Czech Republic, making him a subject of derision among Irish soccer fans.

Asked if his stance would ever change, the Cork native told VIP magazine: "No. It's unfortunate the way things went; it didn't end in the nicest of ways. If I could go back and change it I would but it is what it is now, so I just have to put it behind me.

"I haven't played for Ireland in four years, so I don't think it's a question of 'am I going to go back now.' I think the question is already over -- I have answered it."

And the sports star, who last month transferred from City to Villa, is unrepentant about his outspoken views.

"That's the way I live my life, I guess. I know who's close to me and who's not. My friends are as close to me as family and I treat them with love and respect.

"I say exactly what I feel and what I think. I haven't got much of a conscience about it either, to be honest. I just say what I think is right. If people don't like it, they don't like it, but it's exactly the way I feel," he said.

This week sees himself and his long-term girlfriend Jessica Lawlor (25) opening the doors of their lavish Cheshire mansion for an exclusive photoshoot.

Renowned for being one of soccer's most spendthrift couples, they have spared no expense in kitting out their sprawling home, where they live with son Jacob (2).

Ireland also has two children from a previous relationship Joshua (6) and Jessica (4).

But despite their wealth, they say their young family is the main priority for them.

"We both really work hard when it comes to the kids," Stephen continued. "Rather than going nightclubbing, we'll stay in with the kids. We weren't going to have children if we weren't going to raise them, do our best by them.

"Jessica does the nitty gritty hard stuff. They play soccer with me in the garden and it's all happy, but they don't see the stuff going on in the background."



Marriage

Jessica, who's originally from Birmingham but grew up in Cork and met Stephen through a mutual friend, also said that marriage is definitely on the cards for them.

"I'm so traditional that he'll have to ask me properly," she added. "But to be honest, we've been through so much together already, moving over here so quickly. Stephen's got two children from a previous relationship, so we took them on, then Jacob came, new house, and now everything has moved again.

"And I do feel that we're still young; we're in a situation now that many wouldn't be in until they were 35, and we're only 24 and 25. But it will happen eventually I'm sure."

However, she has said that they work hard to keep their feet on the ground and not let all the trappings of wealth affect their young family.

"When you are around people with the same morals as you it's easy to remember what you are and where you come from.

"Both Stephen and I realise that we're really lucky and we appreciate everything we've got. And, when you have three children to take care of you can't afford to be high and mighty!"

She added: "Stephen and I come from a totally working class background, but the kids have been born into this, so there is a challenge there, and it would be easy for it to go to their heads.

"There were no major privileges in our life growing up, so we are level-headed, and are determined to reflect that onto the kids. I would prefer to spoil them with love and affection rather than constantly spoiling them in a materialistic way."


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