‘I always wanted to play for England’ – Michael Keane on his decision to leave the Ireland set-up

Michael Keane has admitted that his desire was always to play for England, even when he played for the Republic of Ireland at youth level, after making his senior debut for the Three Lions.

Keane was handed his first cap by Gareth Southgate in England’s 1-0 defeat to Germany in Dortmund on Wednesday and he could not hide his delight after the game, revealing that it was a “dream come true” to make his bow against the world champions.

The Burnley defender, who played for the Boys in Green at Under-17 and Under-19 level, switched allegiance to England in 2012 after being brought into the camp by U19 manager Noel Blake.

The 24-year-old, whose father is from Ireland, explained that he did not need a second invitation when the chance arose to play for the country where he was born.

“Being honest, I always wanted to play for England, but when I was younger, I wasn’t quite at the level that was required, so I thought it was best to go and get some experience playing at an international level, so that’s what I did [with Ireland],” Keane, who has been linked with a host of big clubs, told reporters in Germany.

“When I got the call [from England] to ask me to come to play I didn’t think twice about it. Obviously I was thankful to Ireland for the opportunity to play, but England’s my country.”

In the last decade, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has come in for criticism from the Irish Football Association (IFA) for what is perceived as “poaching”, with players opting to throw their lot in with the Republic of Ireland after initially playing for Northern Ireland.

High profile players such as James McClean, Shane Duffy and Darron Gibson are examples of those who made the switch from north to south, but Keane’s example and subsequent admission shows that the FAI also feels the effects of FIFA’s eligibility rules.

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