Dan Sheridan/INPHO Martin O'Neill speaking at today's press conference.

Martin O'Neill on Jack Grealish: The transcript in full

The Ireland manager explained the starlet’s reasons for declining a place in the squad.

MARTIN O’NEILL ANNOUNCED his Ireland squad for the games against Northern Ireland, Scotland and England today, and Jack Grealish was conspicuous by his absence.

The Aston Villa starlet had been heavily linked with the squad after a series of fine performances at club level.

Below is a transcript of today’s press conference in which O’Neill discussed Grealish and his reasons for declining the offer of a place in the Ireland squad.

Martin, no Jack Grealish in the squad. There was speculation that he would be. Can you enlighten us as to any developments?

I spoke to both Jack and his father. I think Jack just didn’t want to make his mind up at this stage. He wanted to complete the season at Aston Villa. There are some important games for them coming up and he wants to make his decision some time in the future.

Are you disappointed by that response?

Yeah, I suppose I am. He’s been doing very well recently and it would have been nice but that’s Jack’s decision.

You would have included him for these games?

Yes, yes. I spoke to the father and said I would like to have brought him in but of course you don’t want to force someone who might not want to make that decision just at this moment.

What’s your feeling, do you think he will declare for Ireland?

Do you know what, I really don’t know at this stage. I’m sure there’s still a good possiblity.

Did you change your mind since saying you thought the Scotland game might be a bit early for him?

Of course. He has played a lot of games since then. He had not been a regular member of the team and when he did, he was generally a sub, but here under Tim Sherwood he has started quite a number of games. Not that I would start pre-empting Tim’s teams but when he did, he’s made a very good impression from the start. Obviously as these games go along, he’ll get fitter as well too by starting matches. He seems to be lasting longer in the games too and doing a lot of good work. Of course, yes, the last four or five weeks have made a big difference obviously to Jack’s career and obviously to my thinking.

Do you still think that the Scotland game might have been too big for him?

I think that’s hypothetical now so it doesn’t really matter at this stage. At the time that I was dealing with it, with him not playing very much football, I think my answer was pretty obvious. I’m not even sure that Jack would have realised that he would play the number of games that he has done since, and also in quick succession too so he’s getting a really good feel of Premier League football and making an impression as well too. All of those things that maybe five weeks ago might not have been in anyone’s consideration, of course there’s a very natural change… If he had not been involved in these five or six games, then I’m sure that the game against Scotland would have been rather tougher at that time. Now that he’s getting used to it, it’s a different decision.

When he accepted the [FAI U21] award, he said he’d like to come back in a green shirt at U21 level. Do you think that’s still the route?

I don’t know. At the time, again, I think he was just getting into the Villa team. Now he’s not only part of the squad but seemingly part of the team and people’s aspirations change a little bit during the course of weeks, never mind months. That might be something that he might look at differently but he did say that he did not want to make a decision now. From our own point of view we would have brought him in, still wouldn’t have wanted to put a great deal of pressure on him. We wouldn’t have minded him training with us for the week leading up to the England game, being part of that match, but still not having to worry about making a decision for Scotland. Disappointing in that aspect.

Do you think England will want him?

I have no idea. I think you’ll have to ask Roy [Hodgson].

But do you think he’s good enough now?

You’ll have to ask Roy. I do not want to sound as if England are miles better than us but I think it would be difficult for him to get into the England squad at this particular moment.

What can you or the FAI do to attract players of first- or second-generation?

I think we’re doing ok.

At the time there was a bit of concern that Roy [Keane]‘s comments about his dad might have scuppered any chance of him coming to play for Ireland. Did his dad mention that at all?

No, he definitely did not. I wouldn’t have thought that. I think he would have treated that in a jocular fashion. Absolutely not, he never mentioned it at all.

Did his dad have much of an influence in the decision or was it Jack’s decision?

I think it would be unfair of me to give a definitive answer on that one. I really don’t know.


Martin, just back to the Jack Grealish situation for a moment, do you think by revealing today that you wanted him to join the squad that it will force his hand?

I don’t think it’s an attempt to preempt anything. I think Jack had mentioned before in fairness to him that he didn’t want to make a decision at that time. My point was then, since he wasn’t a regular member of the side, it seemed less important at that stage. I still think, regardless of that, that bringing him into the squad for a week’s training to see how he gets on is obviously an attempt to see that the FAI will look after him. I think they have done at every level but at the end of the day he has done well enough at Aston Villa to be thought of as a promising young player.

Do you feel rebuffed?

I don’t, no. I don’t take it personally.

Was the delay to today’s press conference because you were in negotiations with Jack and his father?

Not necessarily, no. It might have been a few other issues. I’m really sorry I’ve kept you waiting.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of comments made by Eamon Dunphy last night who said the Irish camp have been insulting and disrespectful towards Jack in their handling of the situation. Would you like to respond?

I’ve no idea what he said.

That the way Ireland had conducted their approach and their relationship with Jack was insulting and disrespectful?

And Eamon said that? That’s good enough for me.

Jack Grealish is NOT in the Ireland squad to face England and Scotland>

‘Grealish likes getting kicked… maybe it’s the British in him’ – Tim Sherwood>

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