Just days after resolving his club future, Jack Grealish is on the verge of making another long-term decision that will please Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.
The Aston Villa winger, having requested time and space from O’Neill in August to finalise his delicate contract situation, is poised to disappoint his native England by sticking with Ireland.
The FA were confident of enticing the Birmingham-born flanker from the Irish fold at the third attempt, when U21 boss Gareth Southgate spoke recently of their admiration for the Premier League newcomer.
Grealish, pictured, and his family, however, are fiercely proud of their Irish heritage and the 19-year-old intends making it a clean sweep of caps for Ireland from U15 upwards by earning his senior debut in next month against USA at Lansdowne Road. As the game isn’t competitive, it leaves open the possibility of him still fleeing to England but that scenario is thought highly unlikely.
Despite England’s ongoing interest, Grealish had never expressed a wish to abandon Ireland.
Indeed, following John O’Shea’s late equaliser that nicked a point for Ireland in Germany on Tuesday, Grealish tweeted “COYBIG” (Come On You Boys In Green).
As the tug-of-war over the flanker cranked up last week, Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane admitted O’Neill and he wouldn’t “go begging” to a player he works with on a daily basis in his similar role at Villa.
Grealish is not expected to figure in the next crunch Euro 2016 qualifier on November 14 in Scotland as O’Neill plans to stay loyal to his squad from the Gelsenkirchen rescue mission. Yet, he’s now very much in contention to accept a call-up for the friendly four days later, when he’ll square up against his Villa team-mate Brad Guzan in goal for the Americans.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved