A football fan has admitted lying in a bid to smear Northern Ireland international David Healy after claiming he was assaulted by the player in Belfast city centre.
Conor Crossan, a Catholic from north Belfast, admitted to a court that he misled the Irish Football Association in an attempt to prevent Healy, 33, playing for Northern Ireland against the Netherlands a year ago.
He told District Judge Peter King: "I was angry. I had a broken nose. I did not want him to get his trip away to be an international hero."
Healy, who was playing for Glasgow Rangers at the time, denied the assault allegation. He admitted their heads clashed but insisted he acted in self defence after being subjected to sectarian abuse in which he was called an "orange b*****d".
During today's hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court it was revealed that Crossan five years earlier allegedly called a Protestant workmate an "orange b*****d".
Crossan, 33, who was also referred to at earlier hearings as James Geroid Crossan, had claimed he was headbutted by Healy after a night out in Belfast last May. He told police it was an unprovoked attack and that he had not tried to approach the striker.
But, in an email to the Irish Football Association's Belfast office days later he said he had been attacked after asking for a photograph with the player, who scored 34 goals for Northern Ireland.
Crossan, a self-employed father of two, said he decided to send the email because he had not heard back from police after lodging his complaint.
He told the court he became angry after an internet search revealed the prolific striker had been awarded an MBE for services to football and the community in 2008 - the year he scored 13 goals during qualifying for the European Championship - the highest total in the competition's history.
Crossan added: "Mr Healy has an MBE. He's a role model. He does charity work. He is talented in the sport and he's lucky to have such a talent. He's a hero in Northern Ireland sport.
"The same guy - when out on Saturday night - I thought his behaviour for a local hero was disgraceful."
Crossan did not deny claims made by defence barrister Richard McConkey that the email was an attempt to blacken Mr Healy's name.
The court also heard how Crossan had four pints of lager, seven bottles of beer and three cocktails during a pub crawl with two friends on the night of the incident. He denied being intoxicated.
"I wasn't drunk drunk, but I was tipsy enough considering the length of time I was out for. I would not say I had a lot to drink," he said.
He also denied being sectarian.
"I was not brought up to be sectarian. I am involved in a football team. I work with Protestants. I have Protestant uncles," he said.
No medical evidence was produced during the proceedings to confirm whether Crossan's nose was broken during the altercation because he did not wait to have an X-ray at hospital.
He later said he had been advised by family and friends to give an interview to a newspaper about the alleged assault.
Responding to questions about his credibility Crossan insisted he was telling the truth.
He said: "I am swearing on the Bible. I am under oath. I am telling the truth."
CCTV footage shown to the court showed Crossan, with a bloodied nose, moving towards the footballer in an aggressive manner. He admitted swinging a punch at the footballer but missed after Healy ducked.
In the video Healy can be seen retreating.
Acquitting Healy, District Judge King said Crossan's evidence could not be relied upon because of the amount of drink he had had, the newspaper interview and the email to the IFA.
"I cannot be sure what we have heard today is part of a continuing campaign against Mr Healy," said the judge.
Outside court Healy said he felt vindicated and was glad the case was over.
"I am just glad it is all done and that I can get on with my life."
Healy, from Killyleagh, Co Down, who was recently released by Bury FC, said the past year had been difficult, adding: "It has been hard when people falsely accuse you of something. Today I have been acquitted and I am delighted."
Afterwards Crossan slipped out of court using a side door to avoid photographers waiting outside.