herald

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Kelly's not out of Irish picture

Liam missed camp for 'personal reasons'

BLACKOUT: Liam Kelly
declined the chance to
join up with the Irish
squad in Turkey
BLACKOUT: Liam Kelly declined the chance to join up with the Irish squad in Turkey

Reading midfielder Liam Kelly says he withdrew from the Ireland squad for last month's trip to Turkey for "personal reasons" instead of a desire to declare for England.

And the 22-year-old says he's still open to a career with the Republic.

The former Ireland U19 and U21 international scored his seventh goal of the season for Reading in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sunderland, a result which saw the Black Cats drop to the bottom of the Championship table, with Chris Coleman's side now six points from safety and, with only three games remaining, all but relegated.

The point for Reading leaves them in 19th place, not out of danger but with a reasonable chance of survival, and Kelly has been a key figure in a difficult season.

He was at the centre of attention last month when Martin O'Neill claimed that Kelly, a regular at youth level for Ireland, but who was capped just once at U21 level, had opted not to join the squad in Turkey.

"Liam Kelly, I think, wants to keep his options open at this minute. Obviously, he's born in England and wants to keep those options open and that's fine," said O'Neill (right), who expressed his unhappiness that Kelly had not spoken to him to explain his absence but had done so by text message.

Sources close to Kelly at the time denied that he planned to defect to his native England and now,the player has ended his silence.

"It was a personal reason, it was nothing against Republic of Ireland," Kelly said.

"It had nothing to do about feeling English or Irish, it was a personal thing between me and my family which we thought was best.

Upset

"There's no ifs and buts about it, it was just how I was feeling at the time."

It's thought that Kelly was upset at how his no-show last month was portrayed and made public by O'Neill, though FAI sources maintain that the midfielder had also been reluctant to join up for a training camp in Cork last year.

Kelly is unlikely to be included when O'Neill names his squad next month for the friendly games against France and the USA but talks could take place between the Kelly camp and O'Neill.

For his part, Kelly's focus is on keeping the Royals in the Championship.

"It's not the position we want to be in but we're good enough to stay up," he said.

"I'm not worried about getting relegated. With the squad we have I think we'll be fine."

Meanwhile, Cork native Alan Browne feels that he and his Preston team-mates can keep up the form they need to make the Championship playoffs.

They came from behind to beat QPR 2-1 on Saturday and are just three points off the playoff places.

"It was a great reaction from the boys to come from a goal down again," said Browne after the win at Loftus Road, the winning goal credited to Browne even though Callum Robinson claimed it. "We did it last week and we've done it again now. Everyone dug deep to grind out the result."

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