Martin O’Neill insists he never “prostituted” himself in an attempt to persuade Jack Grealish to opt for the Republic of Ireland rather than England.
The 20-year-old Aston Villa midfielder, who qualifies for both nations, finally gave the nod to England – the country of his birth – last week, sparking a fresh debate in Ireland over the pursuit of players born outside these shores.
O’Neill had several conversations with Grealish, who has represented the Republic at up to Under-21 level, and his father Kevin, and invited him to join the squad on more than one occasion, but ultimately had to take “no” for an answer.
But asked about the situation, he said: “I never chased Jack Grealish at all. I never prostituted myself in any way, shape or form trying to get Jack Grealish.
“I think Jack Grealish and his father would readily admit that. In fact, actually I was accused of the other thing, of not chasing it up, so I didn’t do that.
“Jack Grealish had a decision to make. Jack Grealish was born in England, his father was born in England and therefore he made a decision to play in England, so that’s it. It’s absolutely and utterly his and his father’s decision to do that, so it’s fine.”
O’Neill’s comments came after he had worked with his squad on Monday morning for the first time since they joined up ahead of the crucial Euro 2016 qualifiers against Germany and Poland which will determine their fate.
In an ideal world, Grealish might have been among the players put through their paces at the FAI National Training Centre, but the Ireland boss was philosophical about his absence.
He said: “Jack has really good talent, [he’s] a really fine player and of course, [it’s] a disappointment to lose out on that, but hopefully it’s not the end of the world.”