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Evans unmasked as mystery star fined by football chiefs

By Claire McNeilly

Young Manchester United star Jonny Evans last night refused to comment after being unmasked by the Belfast Telegraph as the "mystery Northern Ireland player" fined by the Irish FA for misbehaviour in Iceland.

This newspaper revealed yesterday that although the IFA had disciplined two international players following a bust-up on the London-bound flight from Reykjavik last Thursday, only one player - winger Keith Gillespie - had in fact been punished.

The other involved in the fracas, 26-year-old defender George McCartney, was cleared of any wrongdoing - but the IFA then added to the confusion by refusing to name the other disciplined player, or what he had been disciplined for.

It has now emerged that Old Trafford teenager Evans, who played no part in the altercation on the aircraft, was the other player fined.

It is believed the 19-year old defender, who was on United's bench for last night's Champions League clash with Sporting Lisbon, was punished by the association for a drinking offence after the match which was unconnected to the fracas on the plane.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph last night, Evans - whose fine was considerably less than Gillespie's - said he did not wish to elaborate on what the IFA have already said.

The money from the fines will go to charity.

In a statement on Monday evening, the IFA apologised for the behaviour of " certain players within the Northern Ireland squad," although it stopped short of naming any of them.

The statement added that "the players responsible" would be fined - but didn't say what they were responsible for.

On Tuesday evening, the association's chief executive Howard Wells admitted that the confusion, which led to various media reporting that both Gillespie and West Ham player McCartney had been punished, arose from an " unfortunate breakdown in communications".

Sheffield United's Gillespie (32), the most capped player in the Northern Ireland squad, apologised for his part in the fracas on the Icelandair flight last Thursday, saying his behaviour was "unacceptable and unsavoury".

The unwelcome publicity followed two crushing defeats against Latvia and Iceland which will almost certainly put paid to Northern Ireland's chances of qualifying for next year's European Championship finals.

Last night Mr Wells said that, in retrospect, the IFA should have chartered a flight home immediately after the Iceland match.

"The players had time on their hands and they were frustrated with the way the game was lost at the end of a long time away," he said.

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