Mick McCarthy launched a late bid to dissuade Jack Grealish from jumping ship to England, according to the player’s father.
The flying Aston Villa winger, who will face Ireland tonight at Wembley for his homeland, played all his international career with the Boys in Green up to 2014.
After taking a year to weigh up an offer from England boss Roy Hodgson, Grealish made up his mind to switch allegiances in September 2015.
It would take five years for the new recruit to be handed his first senior cap by Gareth Southgate against Denmark.
During Grealish’s wait for a breakthrough, McCarthy made his move following a chance encounter at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in December 2018.
“Mick had just returned to the Ireland job and we got talking at the awards through a mutual friend,” explained Jack’s dad Kevin, whose parents were born in Kerry and Galway.
“Mick asked if Jack would be interested in playing for Ireland, saying he could see him easily winning 40 caps.
“I said thanks for the offer but it was too late by that stage.
That Grealish had represented England’s U21s meant he was tied to the country of his birth but only recently Fifa relaxed the rules so that players can feature in three senior matches before changing country.
Irish fans and players may see first-hand for themselves what they’re missing out on tonight.
Grealish went cool on Ireland once Martin O’Neill overlooked him for a senior debut in 2014.
Calls for the youngster’s elevation had increased by that juncture on the back of his displays for the U21s and having made his Premier League debut.
O’Neill’s decision to leave Grealish behind for the two games against Costa Rica and Portugal in America left him scrambling to keep the player and his family onside.
Grealish was amenable to figuring in a friendly against USA later that year but O’Neill’s attempts to cap him against England in June 2015 were resisted.
“I think Ireland should have been bringing talented young players into the senior squad far earlier,” reflected Grealish Snr, whose Kerry-born mother Margaret passed away last year.
“England seem to have developed that policy in recent years. Callum Hudson-Odoi was eligible for other countries and Gareth Southgate brought him into the full squad last year at 18.
“Jack made his choice when he was ready. Anyone that thought his family or agent decided on his international future are wrong.