Roy Keane has revealed that Stephen Ireland's grandmother - who Ireland once falsely claimed to be dead - has appealed for the Stoke midfielder to be given another chance at international level.
Ireland withdrew from a squad in 2007, initially claiming one of his grandmothers had died, then the other, before eventually admitting both were alive and later citing a personal problem as the reason.
The 27-year-old has enjoyed a much-improved Premier League season, making 19 appearances so far for Mark Hughes’ side as they aim for a top-half finish in England's top flight.
Keane revealed that he had an impromptu meeting with Ireland’s grandmother on Wednesday morning on a flight returning from Manchester and was pressed on whether he could forge his way back into the international set-up.
The Ireland assistant manager said: “Well I spoke with his grandmother this morning, she was on the flight coming over and she asked me would he get back involved.
"Well I spoke with his grandmother ... and I couldn’t lie to her, I said he’d have a chance if he’s playing well!" - Roy Keane
“And I couldn’t lie to her, I said he’d have a chance if he’s playing well!
“I think Martin had a conversation with him and all that needs to fall into place.
“We all know how talented Stephen is. Martin will look at that. We wouldn’t be shutting the door on any player.
“What is important for any player, and Stephen is the same, is it does help to be playing week-in week-out.
“He’s obviously had a difficult spell. We mentioned young (David) Meyler earlier. Meyler has had injuries for a couple of years.
“I was a great one for training but if you want to improve you have to play week-in, week-out.
“Stephen has only just had a run of games at Stoke now. I know he couldn’t play at the weekend because it was part of the deal with Aston Villa that he couldn’t play against them.
“So I certainly wouldn’t be ruling anyone out.”
Ireland, who has not represented his country since 2008, declined overtures to return to the fold during Giovanni Trapattoni's reign, but has hinted he may be ready to revise his position in the wake of O'Neill's appointment.
Roy Keane’s wide-ranging interview with Tony O’Donoghue will be broadcast on Soccer Republic on RTÉ Two at 11:05pm on Monday 31 March