Paddy McCourt has revealed that he turned down a place at Euro 2016 with Northern Ireland because his wife had been diagnosed as suffering with a brain tumour.
The 32-year-old former Celtic winger left Luton Town in May, citing personal reasons for his departure from the League Two side, and has now revealed he decided not to join up with Michael O’Neill’s squad, rather than being left out.
In today’s edition of The Times, McCourt explains that he was due to be in France alongside the likes of Steven Davis and Kyle Lafferty, before being told about his wife Laura’s condition.
“When something like that happens, your only thought is for your family.
“The flight landed at Gatwick and was taxiing to the airport when she had a seizure on the bus.
“Paramedics were called to the scene and they rang me. They were asking me if she was epileptic or anything like that.
“They said they were going to send her to East Surrey Hospital. Naturally, I was very concerned.
“Within 48 hours it came back that they had found a brain tumour.”
Laura was then told by doctors that she’d require an operation, and the date they were given was June 9 – just days before Norther Ireland’s Euros campaign began against Poland.
McCourt continued: “I called Michael (Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill), explained what had happened and told him I wasn’t going to be available for the Euros.
“He said: ‘Don’t even think about Euros. Just be there for Laura and make sure she gets better.’
“It was absolutely nerve-racking but thankfully we were given the best possible news afterwards, which was that everything had been positive.
“Laura is now recovering and we’re told that in four to six months, please God, she will be completely back to normal.
“Of course it would be great to be out with them, but it wasn’t meant to be. Football is important, but family is what matters most. “
McCourt made his international debut back in 2002, and has gathered 18 caps in total for his country so far, who can progress to the knockout stage of this summer’s tournament if they can defeat world champions Germany tomorrow evening.
We’re sure McCourt will be glued to his TV.
Now in his 30s, McCourt remains without a club but is expected to continue his career back in Norther Ireland.