Ireland still in Republic picture despite fall-out with Kerr

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U-21 manager Don Givens insists Stephen Ireland’s prior fall-out with Brian Kerr will not block his path to again playing for his country.

Ireland had a bust-up with senior boss Kerr when he was U-17 coach three years ago, vowing then never again to play for the Republic if the 52-year-old remained involved.

But it is understood the Manchester City midfielder, who gave a man-of- the-match performance on his debut in the 2-0 victory over Everton on Sunday, is willing to put the past behind him.

Givens has monitored Ireland of late, although his outing at the weekend came too late for him to be included in the squad for the final two games of the Republic's disappointing European Championship campaign.

With nothing but pride at stake, Givens ushers in a new era for today's match with Cyprus in Larnaca and on Tuesday against Switzerland at Tolka Park, with several newcomers.

Ireland will have to wait a while longer yet to return to the Republic fold, although Givens said: "Stephen is a player coming into contention. Like all good players he is somebody I will be looking at closely. I've already seen him in action, and he is coming into his own.

"I watched him just a few weeks ago in a reserve match and he did okay, yet despite his performance on Sunday, it was too late to bring him in for these matches because the squad had already been picked.

"There is already a lot of competition in midfield at this level anyway Joey O'Brien, Glenn Whelan, Darren Potter, Gary Dicker, Aiden McGeady and Willo Flood.

"But if he continues to play for Manchester City, I will be looking at him very differently because despite what happened in the past with Kerr that is nothing to do with me.

"He will be assessed like all other players, and although I've not spoken to him yet, if I pick him in a squad, he is in the squad and he will come into contention like everybody else."

There is the suggestion if the FAI continue to dally for too much longer over the 19-year-old, England will step in as he has an English grandparent.

Givens poured scorn on the notion, adding: "I don't believe everything I read in the papers. I don't really want to get involved in that kind of stuff. I will look at the lad just as I look at everybody and then we will see what happens."

There are potentially five debutants in Givens's new-look squad Dicker and Darren Quigley of eircom League side UCD, Birmingham's Marcos Painter, Keith Keane of Luton and Karl Bermingham, currently on loan at Burnley from Manchester City.

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