Liam Kelly withdrew from Ireland squad ‘to keep international options open’, says O’Neill

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has revealed that Liam Kelly is not in his latest squad to face Turkey because the Reading midfielder wishes to keep his options open with England.

Kelly, who has represented Ireland at Under-19 and Under-21 level but has yet to receive senior honours, was named in O’Neill’s provisional squad for the friendly against the Turks in Antalya. However, he was subsequently absent from the reduced 25-man panel and it has emerged that the reason for his absence is a desire to potentially play for England instead.

Kelly was born in England but his grandparents are from Ireland and he is eligible to play for the Boys in Green. O’Neill¬†explained that he had attempted contact the 22-year-old on a number of occasions and that his calls had not been returned, but that he did receive a reply by text message.

“You might want to ask about Liam Kelly, who I think wants to keep his options open at this minute,” O’Neill told reporters in Turkey. “Obviously he’s born in England and wants to keep those options open and that’s fine.

“What did I do? I did actually leave a message or two and he got back to me by text.

“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.

“He had not returned a lot of calls coming through at the time (when named in squad). 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.”

Should Kelly follow through with his reported desire to play for England he will follow in the footsteps of Jack Grealish, who also played for Ireland at various levels before switching allegiance to the Three Lions.

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