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Gillespie full of remorse after punch-up with his team-mate

By Connla Young

Shamed Northern Ireland star Keith Gillespie has apologised for his part in an early-morning punch-up with team mate George McCartney.

The two senior players had to be pulled apart by team mates after they swapped blows as they boarded a flight from Reykjavik to London after Northern Ireland's disastrous defeat to Iceland on Wednesday.

Last night a contrite Gillespie said he was sorry for the sensational sparring match with his team-mate.

He told Belfast Telegraph sports columnist Adrian Logan on UTV: "It was really a misunderstanding over a lost passport.

"George and I had words and a coming together. The whole incident was finished in two or three seconds."

He added: "The incident has obviously been sensationalised by most of the press. But it's something that should not have happened, it is unacceptable.

"We are there representing our country and the IFA and obviously behaviour like that should not happen. I deeply apologise to the management, staff, fans and the IFA as well."

The shame faced football star revealed that he has sent George McCartney a text to make sure there are "no hard feelings" between the pair.

He said: "As far as I'm concerned I want to draw a line under it and get on with playing football for Northern Ireland."

A spokesman for the IFA said the body would make a decision on what action to take after speaking to both players.

He said: "Keith has apologised and we are trying to meet with the two guys and get all the facts together. That's being organised as we speak."

Gillespie's astonishing altercation with McCartney only ended when team-mates David Healy, Warren Feeney and Steve Davis jumped in to haul them apart.

Stunned onlookers say peacemaker Healy was punched several times as he tried to restore calm.

The shocking bust-up brought the curtain down on a bad week for Sheffield United star Gillespie.

Hours earlier the winger effectively ended his sides chances of qualifying for next years European Championships when he scored an own goal to hand Iceland and 2-1 win.

Meanwhile Nigel Worthington is set to leave the Northern Ireland manager's role when the Euro 2008 campaign finishes.

After crushing defeats in Latvia and Iceland in the last week, which has left Northern Ireland in third position in Group F, the general consensus of opinion in the squad is that the chance to qualify has gone.

There are three games left - away to top two Sweden and Spain and at home to fourth placed Denmark, who are closing in on Northern Ireland.

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