Jack Grealish turns down senior Ireland squad call-up
Martin O’Neill disappointed as Grealish decides he is still not ready to commit to Ireland
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill speaking at the squad announcement yesterday for the games against England and Scotland. Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
The question of Jack Grealish’s international future looks more uncertain and will hang over Martin O’Neill into next season after the 19-year-old Aston Villa player turned down the opportunity to be called into the senior Ireland squad for games against England and Scotland.
O’Neill spoke to the player yesterday morning having previously discussed the situation with his father Kevin, who appears to wield considerable influence over his son’s career.
The manager said afterwards he was “disappointed” with the player’s decision to decline the call-up, and while he insisted it would not be a barrier to him being involved at some future point he did not sound entirely convinced.
“I really didn’t want to be putting pressure on him; I think that’s the main thing. [The idea was] that he’d come in for the week, get himself involved, and maybe it might just have topped off a really brilliant end-of-season for him. He might have been walking into the camp with an FA Cup medal. A winner’s medal. That is very possible, so he would have been on an absolute high. But if that’s not the case, that’s fine. ”
However, the Birmingham-born midfielder preferred to kick the whole thing back beyond the summer, with the manager suggesting that the teenager’s original declaration that he would be available to Ireland again in September probably no longer applying.
“I think at some stage or another Jack’s got to make his mind up. He really has got to make his mind up. I think that would be the message coming from not just me personally but probably from club level as well. At some stage or another he makes his mind up [but] I think he wants to make his decision next season.
“Now, Jack’s been born in England; his father’s been born in England – I can genuinely understand those ties. That’s really understandable. And I’m sure if England were to come calling that’s something that might be hard to resist for him.
“But I don’t think England have been calling. I don’t know that for certain, but I don’t think they have.”
O’Neill was wary of being too frank about the difference between what is required to merit an Ireland call-up and an England one, but he hinted strongly more than once that he believes Grealish is still some way off featuring for England manager Roy Hodgson.
Even five or six weeks ago, he observed: “I didn’t think that he had played often enough in the side. He was getting on for the last 20 minutes, but you can either do brilliantly as a sub or not get a kick...that wasn’t going to tell me anything.
“Since then he has got the games and started to make an impression. The most important part from my own experiences is that you’re not coming on as a sub; you’re starting games, playing for 70 minutes and then playing full games and even in the last 20 minutes you’re starting to make an impression.
“Jack is still like every young player at that age. He’s still got lots to do. Roy [Hodgson] is dealing with experienced players and even the younger lads at this moment that he has are vastly more experienced than Jack at club level.”
Judge and Rooney, meanwhile, will embrace the opportunity to be involved with the squad in the event that they are not cut between now and June 1st, when the players are expected to gather in Dublin.
For Rooney this call-up is recognition for a season in Scotland where his 27 goals in all competitions helped Aberdeen to second place behind Celtic.
Judge, meanwhile, was a key player in Brentford making it to the Championship play-offs.
Drive into space
Robbie Keane is expected to have recovered from a groin problem that has sidelined him in recent weeks to play a part in the games, but Darron Gibson and Ciaran Clark both miss out through injury.