Wednesday 20 February 2019

No move on Liam Kelly

I only want players who want to play for Ireland says O'Neill

Back to school: Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill with Layla Matthews (10) at the SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools launch at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Back to school: Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill with Layla Matthews (10) at the SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools launch at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill says he's not going to chase after Reading prospect Liam Kelly as the cold war between the pair lingers on.

And while the Ireland boss is interested in Australian-born Brandon O'Neill as a potential recruit, he insists that newcomers to the international scene, such as Preston's Callum Robinson, will have to prove they deserve to be there.

O'Neill has been on the ground in Ireland for some days now, and he was on hand in Tallaght Stadium on Monday night to see former U21 cap Graham Burke score a wonder goal for Shamrock Rovers.

"A brilliant goal, a great start and they deserved to win the game," O'Neill said of Burke's strike in a 3-0 win over Cork City.

He's planning for a busy spell ahead with three games in the space of 14 days - the Scott Brown testimonial in Glasgow, the friendly with France in Paris, and a Dublin date with the USA next month.

A shadow squad will travel to Scotland for the testimonial, with Ireland's Premier League players likely to be excused from that one (though given that Celtic play in the Scottish Cup final 23 hours earlier, it's likely to be a weak, possibly hungover, Celtic side too).

"I have spoken to one or two players but generally I would like them to be left alone at this stage," says the Ireland boss.

"For instance, lads were preparing for two games at the end of the season and then suddenly the match against Celtic came along. Some lads were trying to prepare for a little bit of a break before we got into these games and I understand that.

"Suddenly the Celtic game came a wee bit late so it might be a bit of mixing and matching for us in that particular game.

"I still want to be competitive and I know that they (Celtic) will have played the previous day," added O'Neill, looking forward to a Parkhead reunion with Henrik Larsson, who plans to play in the testimonial.


Aiden McGeady and Jon Walters are expected to carry on their international careers (though McGeady will probably miss the May/June games through injury) and confirmation is expected next week that John O'Shea and Glenn Whelan are retiring from the national team.

But a senior Ireland career for Reading's Kelly now looks very unlikely, O'Neill still unhappy with the manner in which the former U21 cap absented himself from duty in Turkey in March. O'Neill claims that Kelly wanted to "keep his options open" with his native England, a claim which Kelly's camp disputed.

"The lad didn't get back to me, he sent me a text message about four or five days afterwards. At the end of it all, I'm not going to push it. It's up to the players," said O'Neill when asked about Kelly's comme nts that he was still open to playing for Ireland.

"His position was pretty categoric. I said this before, it was verified by the club itself. Not getting in touch is fine.

" At the end of it all, the comment from the club was that he wanted to keep his options open in case England came calling.

"Fine, I haven't a problem with that. Am I going to go and see him after that? No. If someone wants to, if the player wants to come and say 'Listen here, I've had a think about it and I really do fancy it,' I think that's a different proposition," added O'Neill.

He also made it clear that 31-year-old Shaun Williams, despite an impressive run with a Millwall side who just missed out on the promotion play-offs, is not expected to get the call.

"Did he not make a comment himself saying what has he got to do to get into the squad? Play well for a start," said O'Neill.

"In my early days I saw him playing and the very fact that I didn't put him in the squad might suggest something at that time. He's had a really good season and I'll give it some consideration."


One player who is on his radar is Aussie native Brandon O'Neill (24). A key midfielder for A-League side Sydney FC he has been linked with a move to a European club and while he has been capped by Australia at U23 level he is eligible for Ireland, and the Republic manager is eager to know more.

"Australia are definitely interested in this lad. We will see," said O'Neill. "He has actually got an Irish passport, I'll have a look. I'm not so sure I'll be heading out to Sydney but the lad has definitely got ability."

While Brandon O'Neill has yet to formally declare for us, Martin O'Neill knows that Preston forward Callum Robinson is eager. Scorer of seven goals for Sean Maguire's club this season Robinson says he wants to play but O'Neill says the door does not open automatically.

"He's declared for us," he said. "I went to see their game on Saturday, the Sheffield United game, he's a nice little footballer, he was at Aston Villa as a kid.

"Lots of these players have work to do. A number of players we have mentioned are not the finished article. At least he, without coaxing, wants to come and play, I always think that's a half decent step if the player wants to come in."

O'Neill also reflected on the slide of Aiden McGeady, facing life in the third tier with Sunderland.

"It's been a fall from grace for the football club for a start and I'm sure it's not something he envisaged when he joined. It's not that long since he was playing in the Champions League," said the Derry native.

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