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STEPHEN IRELAND

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STEPHEN IRELAND of COBH: TALENTED but FRUSTRATED ON/OFF PITCH

Stephen Ireland (born August 22, 1986 in Cobh,) is an Irish footballer playing in England for Manchester City.

Stephen Ireland started his football career in Cobh, playing junior football for Cobh Ramblers, a team his father Michael had previously played for.As a schoolboy Ireland had trials with a number of British clubs, though several were discouraged by his Osgood-Schlatter disease, which he suffered from in his mid-teens. At the age of 15 he joined the youth setup at Manchester City.

Ireland played for Manchester City's first team in a number of friendlies in the 2005 preseason and made his competitive debut on the 18th September 2005 against Bolton Wanderers, coming on as an 81st minute substitute. He subsequently made his first competitive start against Doncaster Rovers on 21st September 2005.

He won man of the match on his first Premiership start against Everton on the 2nd October 2005. He then started the next six matches for City, which won him a contract to keep him at the club until 2009. In the remainder of the season he participated in around half of Manchester City's matches, ending the season with a total of 16 starts and 12 substitute appearances.

On the 26th of December, Ireland scored his first Premiership goal for Manchester City, a left footed volley from 20 yards. The goal proved to be the only goal in a vital 1-0 victory at Sheffield United' s Bramall Lane. Ireland's second goal for City came against Sheffield Wednesday in the third round of FA Cup. His goal, scored just moments before the interval, was created by man of the match, Joey Barton, in front of 25,000 spectators at the City of Manchester Stadium. City went on to win 2-1. On the 18th of February, Ireland rounded off the scoring for Manchester City in a 3-1 away win over Preston North End in the 5th round of the FA Cup with a stunning volley from outside the area. On April 12th rumours emerged in the press that his fellow countryman Roy Keane, was set to offer a £5m deal to Manchester City in the summer to bring him to Sunderland AFC.

Ireland represented his country at under-15, under-16 and under-17 level but when called up to under-18 level he had a dispute with coach, Brian Kerr, after he was left out of the side and told to watch the match from the stands. The team lost the match 4-0, and Kerr suggested Ireland would be involved in the next match. When Ireland was again left out, he requested to return to his club, and Kerr informed him that he would never play for the Republic of Ireland while Kerr was manager. Shortly afterward, Kerr bacame manager of the senior Republic of Ireland team, leading Ireland to briefly consider choosing to represent either England or Italy, for whom he was also eligible.

In January 2006 Kerr was replaced as Republic of Ireland manager by Steve Staunton. In Staunton's first squad, for a match against Sweden, Ireland received a senior call up for the first time. Ireland came on a substitute in the match, replacing John O'Shea and scored his first international goal on October 7th, 2006 in a 5-2 loss to Cyprus.

On the 7th of February 2007 Stephen Ireland saved the Republic of Ireland from a humiliating draw with San Marino with a last minute injury time goal. Final score was 2-1. On 24th March, 2007, he scored the first ever soccer goal in Croke Park against Wales.This was his third international goal in just four matches. To be continued.

 

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