Is there any reason to see Irenaeus' statement as a lie?
I don't have any reason to suspect he was being dishonest, but possibly confused or misinformed There may be reason to suspect his motive colors his statement somewhat. Irenaeus spent alot of time defending what he believed to be the true faith against numerous heresies. What he was attempting to do was to show that there were only four true gospels versus all of the other gnostic gospels that were floating around during his day. His argument was certainly bolstered by attaching John the Apostle to the fourth gospel.
It might be assumed since he was a disciple of Polycarp who was said to be a disciple of John that he would have the inside scoop on who wrote the fourth gospel. However strangely enough in Polycarp's letter to the Phillipians he make numerous NT allusions and quotes but does not draw from the Gospel of John. It begs the question, did Polycarp even know of this gospel? Again, very strange for someone who came from Asia Minor and was a said to be a disciple of the apostle.
Another early writer that Irenaeus favors is Papias. Eusebius also draws from Papias comments on the authorship of Matthew and Mark. Papias states that he was interested in knowing first-hand what Jesus and the apostles had said and so he saw it was important to get in contact with those that had heard them. One such "hearer" was John the Elder from Asia Minor who Papias distinguishes from John the evangelist (apostle). This shows that there was another notable John in Asia Minor. I think this lead to confusion later when this John the Elder began to be associated with the Apostle John.
One of my lingering issues I have always had with this notion that the Apostle John lived to a very advanced age and died "naturally" in Asia Minor was Jesus prophecy to the two Zebedee brothers that they would also drink the cup that Jesus' was to drink. I understand this to mean that John like James would be executed for the sake of the Word.
Back to the GoJ - no matter who wrote it, the inspiration of the writer is very clear to me. It has a spiritual character that is beyond the other three gospels. I also think there was probably a good reason that these works were originally anonymous and attempting to pin names on them is more an intellectual curiousity to me, more than a necessary, spiritual pursuit. Further while I'm certain that "disciple Jesus' loved" was Lazarus I do not know if he was even the author of the fourth gospel.