Jack Grealish has turned down the opportunity to be called into the Republic of Ireland squad for the games against England and Scotland with Martin O'Neill confirming that he has spoken to both the player and his father in advance of confirming his initial 33-man panel but that the teenager had again said that he did not want to make a final call on his international future at this point in time.
O’Neill said that he was disappointed by the player’s decision with the manager making it clear that he felt the number of starts made by the 19 year-old for his club in recent months had earned the midfielder the right “to be thought of as a proper senior player”.
The Ireland boss insisted, however, that he does not feel that the decision to decline the call up on this occasion has in any way closed the door on Grealish for the future and he suggested that for all the speculation that the player might declare for England he would be unlikely to feature in Roy Hodgson’s side in the immediate future.
“I think you’d have to ask Roy,” he said. “I do not want to sound like England are miles better than us but I think it would be difficult to get into the England squad just now.”
Asked about his change of mind about a player he had suggested quite recently wasn’t quite ready for senior international football, O’Neill said simply that the amount of first team football he has played of late as well, obviously, as the quality of his performances in games, had won him over.
"He's played a lot of games since then. He had not been a regular member of the team and when he did play (earlier in the season) he was generally a sub but under Tim Sherwood he has started and he seems to be lasting longer in the games.
“I don’t think it (his attempt to call the player up on this occasion) was an attempt to pre-empt anything. I think Jack had mentioned before that he didn’t want to make a decision at this particular point in time but my point was that as he wasn’t a regular member of the team then and so it might have seemed less important at that particular point in time.”
His intention, he said, had been to bring the 19-year-old in for the week leading up to the England game, let him familiarise himself with the senior set up and perhaps play a part in the England game, all without the pressure of actually having to make a final call on his longer term future, but the player seems to have remained determined to make that call at some point after the summer.
O’Neill’s squad wasn’t entirely without new faces, meanwhile, with both Adam Rooney of Aberdeen and Brentford’s Alan Judge included for the first time.
Darron Gibson and Ciaran Clark both miss out due to the injuries that have ended their club campaigns prematurely but Robbie Keane is expected to be fit in plenty of time to play a part in the game while David McGoldrick of Ipswich Town, who on the bench for Mick McCarthy’s side at the weekend after being laid up recently, is also included.
Ireland squad: David Forde, Shay Given, Keiren Westwood,Darren Randolph, Richard Keogh, Marc Wilson, Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, John O'Shea, Alex Pearce, Paul McShane, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Ward, Harry Arter, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady, James McClean, Alan Judge, Robbie Brady, Anthony Pilkington, Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Keane, Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, Anthony Stokes, David McGoldrick, Adam Rooney, Simon Cox