Monday 18 December 2017

'I never prostituted myself in any way' - Martin O'Neill defends attempts to get Jack Grealish to wear green

Ireland vs Germany: 2 days to go

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill speaks to the media in Abbotstown yesterday.
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill speaks to the media in Abbotstown yesterday.

Martin O'Neill was clearly upset. It's a brave international manager who uses the word 'prostituted' in a sentence but it came from his lips unbidden.

"I never chased Jack Grealish at all. I never prostituted myself in any way, shape or form trying to get Jack Grealish," he said.

So there. Germany on the mat and we're still talking about Jack.

O'Neill's gripe is with an unnamed journalist who he believes suggested that his approach to the recruitment of Jack Grealish was a stain on Ireland's football reputation.

Leaving aside the truly enormous scope of that particular debate which, in effect, is a discussion about football in Ireland, it is hard to see how O'Neill's role in the Grealish saga was anything other than professional and careful.

Likewise the FAI staff who were also doing their jobs professionally, looked after Grealish and within the rules laid down by FIFA, almost secured a serious talent for the Ireland international senior squad.

In terms of the broader issue, the horses, cows and chickens have long ago skipped out of the barn and disappeared into the distance. As long as the Granny Rule exists, it will be pursued and so it should be.


The notion that suddenly now, just because Jack says no, everyone should focus on the morality of gathering in our lost tribe to play for us is faintly ridiculous.

Those who have been paying attention would know that Ireland's football industry is dysfunctional and it could be argued, in crisis. It has been for a long, long time.

The supply line to the senior team has been largely from Northern Ireland and Scotland for a number of years. This is not news.

It wasn't O'Neill's call to make whether Grealish or any other eligible player should be explored. He was simply responding to a demand made of him as Ireland senior international manager.

But back to O'Neill's need to confront what he considered to be a dig at him, an interesting strategy given the looming giant that is Germany.

"Every single time I've come here, it was the first question I was asked so I didn't do that at all (chase Grealish). I think Jack Grealish and his father would readily admit that. In fact, actually I was accused of the other thing, of not chasing it up so I didn't do that," he said.

"Jack Grealish had a decision to make. Jack Grealish was born in England. His father was born in England and therefore he made a decision to play in England so that's it," said the Ireland boss.

"It's absolutely and utterly his and his father's decision to do that so it's fine, because I left it in their hands entirely to do that. Naturally I would love if every single one of these players, a bit like Celtic where they were born 30 miles from Glasgow, it would be nice to know that everyone was born and bred here but that may not necessarily be the case," he said.

"But that doesn't prevent them from wanting to and being eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland so, in the long term who is to say?

"Jack has really good talent, a really fine player and of course, a disappointment to lose out on that there but hopefully it's not the end of the world."

In an immediate sense, Grealish is a player who O'Neill could have used against Germany on Thursday. His deck is short. Injuries and suspensions have left an already brittle squad seriously weakened.

It is perhaps overstating it to say that O'Neill is grasping at straws by bringing Darron Gibson into his squad but it certainly feels like that.

"I saw him on Monday night and as it was he got on for a few minutes, then retained his position on the bench.

"He said himself he hasn't done that much work which is always a concern for someone whose fitness through niggling injuries in the last couple of years hasn't always been the best. But a fully fit Darron Gibson would be an asset to us," said O'Neill.

Aiden McGeady continues to struggle with his bid to return to regular first team football at Everton but he remains an option. most likely as an impact substitute.

" Aiden's problem obviously is not being able to get into the Everton side and he's had a few niggling injuries. He missed the game against Scotland in June because of that," he added.

"He got onto the bench last Monday night, felt a wee bit of a niggle again on Friday so he didn't make the bench (for Sunday).

"But he's feeling not so bad now, he did a little bit of training there and if he's come through that there then, absolutely, he's an option."

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