Conor Wilkinson committed to Ireland ahead of under-21 tie with Andorra

English-born striker is in Noel King’s squad for the European Championship qualifier

Bolton Wanderers striker Conor Wilkinson: “I wouldn’t play for England, no way.” Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Bolton Wanderers striker Conor Wilkinson: “I wouldn’t play for England, no way.” Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

 

It should be music to the ears of Kevin Kilbane to hear English-born Conor Wilkinson declare his undivided commitment to the Republic of Ireland ahead of Thursday’s opening European Championship qualifier against Andorra at the Waterford RSC (7.45pm).

Opt-out stance

Jack Grealish

Wilkinson’s name aroused the interest of the English FA in 2013 when Bolton Wanderers took a punt on the teen by enticing him from fellow Championship club Millwall on a lucrative three-year-deal and a six-figure compensation fee for the club. That the agency that also represents Rio Ferdinand brokered the deal only added to the intrigue.

The gangly forward, 190cm (6ft 3in) in height, will not countenance having his head turned when it comes to international allegiance. It’s Ireland or nothing for the 20-year-old.

Cockney accent

“My family would be disappointed in me more than anything else. My mum, Gina Foley, is from Dublin and my family is proper Irish. They’re as proud of my achievement of playing for Ireland since 15 as I am.”

Wilkinson, yet to score at this level, will be expected to break his duck against the lowest seeded nation of a group that also includes Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and Lithuania.

“This is a game we are expected to win but it won’t be all-out attack,” cautioned Ireland manager Noel King.

Former Waterford United striker Seán Maguire will be back on home territory tonight after the West Ham United man was drafted in as a late replacement for Matt Hamilton, who was ruled out because of a stomach bug.

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