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Reading's Liam Kelly declines Ireland call-up to keep England options open

The 22-year-old was named in Martin O’Neill’s provisional squad for Friday’s friendly against Turkey.

Liam Kelly in action for Reading against Sunderland in December.
Liam Kelly in action for Reading against Sunderland in December.
Image: Nigel Roddis

THERE ARE DOUBTS over the international future of Liam Kelly after Martin O’Neill revealed today that the talented Reading midfielder declined the Ireland manager’s call-up for this week’s friendly against Turkey.

The English-born 22-year-old, who has already represented Ireland at U19 and U21 level, qualifies to play for the Boys in Green via his Irish grandparents.

Earlier this month, Kelly was included in O’Neill’s 30-man provisional squad for this Friday’s game in Antalya. However, his name was absent from the finalised list when the squad was reduced to 25 on Sunday.

Speaking in Turkey today, O’Neill explained that Kelly isn’t ready to make a commitment regarding his international prospects. The Ireland boss eventually received a text message from the player after several calls went unanswered.

“Obviously he’s born in England and wants to keep those options open, and that’s fine,” O’Neill said, as reported by Daniel McDonnell of the Irish Independent.

“I’ve always said here that it’s the player’s choice. It’s exactly what it is and if he wants to think that England might come in, that’s entirely his decision.”

Republic of Ireland Squad Training & Press Conference Ireland manager Martin O'Neill speaking to the media in Turkey this afternoon. Source: Stephen McCarthy

Kelly made his Ireland U19 debut in a game against Slovenia in September 2013, before going on to play for the U21 side against USA in November 2014. He received a senior call-up from Martin O’Neill in March of last year for the games against Wales and Iceland, but ultimately withdrew due to injury.

O’Neill added: “Despite the fact that I knew where he was born, I thought that was okay. I spoke to his agent quite some considerable time ago and I think that was always going to be okay, I felt. He was in the squad before and had to pull out with a hamstring problem.”

Kelly has earned rave reviews for some of his performances for Reading this season, during which he has chipped in with several stunning goals for the Championship club. He took his tally for the season to six in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Norwich City.

“Liam is a quality player,” said Reading manager Jaap Stam when speaking about the Kelly last year. “He is a player who has great skills, he’s very comfortable on the ball and can go past players as well. His passing, his technique is world-class.”

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