Shay Given: Jack Grealish is good enough to step up for Ireland
Given backs Grealish as star Bamford keeps options open
SHAY Given believes that in-demand teenager Jack Grealish is good enough to play for Ireland's senior squad right now.
And in a potential boost for Ireland, highly-rated Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford - who was this week named as the Championship's player of the year on the back of his form on loan to Middlesbrough - says he could still declare for Ireland.
With the English FA sniffing after Grealish in the wake of his stunning Wembley display in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool, interest in the 19-year-old is hotting up, though his father today insisted that Grealish has yet to make a final decision on his international allegiance.
"It's going to be a difficult decision, it's completely up to Jack," dad Kevin Grealish said today. "He started playing for Ireland when he was 14 and went with the flow.
"Everybody is talking a bit serious about it now. He has had a few good games recently so he needs to just keep doing that and his international stuff will come."
Martin O'Neill is unlikely to force the issue with Grealish - who says he will return to international football in September - by naming him in the squad for June's double-header with England and Scotland but Villa team-mate Given feels the teenager is ready.
"He is good enough to play for Ireland right now," Given said. "I think he was absolutely brilliant on Sunday in such a big game, but the bad side of that is that England will be taking note."
There is also a potential battle between England and Ireland over star forward Bamford. Capped once at youth level by the Republic in 2010, Bamford has since appeared at U21 level for England but he has not closed the door on an Ireland career. "My mum's side is Irish and my dad's side is English so it was a tough decision for me. Being English, it was always my dream to play for England, but I am not going to rule out either option," he told Talksport today.