Saturday 22 September 2018

Paul Hyland: It'll be harder now to convince Jack Grealish to play for the Boys in Green

Scotland game key in Grealish decision

Jack Grealish
Jack Grealish
Martin O'Neill

IF nothing else, the Jack Grealish saga has injected some life into Martin O'Neill's management of the Ireland senior team.

Defeat against Scotland in four weeks and the spike in national interest will fade fast. In those circumstances, there is a distinct possibility that Ireland will have a caretaker manager when Grealish calls in September to give his decision.

For what it's worth, the general feeling emanating from the Grealish household still seems to be very positive towards the notion of Jack in green but it is moot how long that will last, given the wave of social media abuse aimed at him.

The double-standard at work here is breathtaking. Many of those now hurling insults at Grealish were in the front line defending Ireland's right to take players from the Northern Ireland and Scotland under-age systems.

Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill

It's okay for Ireland to do it but not England. It's all about perspective and whether you like your nationality rabid or reasonable. Most people see the dilemma Grealish faces. The hysterical fringe can only see green.

Of much more concern, however, is the possible ramifications of a story which emerged in the aftermath of Tuesday's squad announcement drama, claiming that O'Neill had a deal with Kevin Grealish which was broken and as a result, the Ireland manager ended up with egg on his face.

It was also hinted that Tim Sherwood had put his oar in by telling Grealish to take some more time and stick to the schedule he laid down for himself at the FAI/Soccer Writers' awards ceremony.

There is something faintly laughable about that. Of course Sherwood is sticking his oar in. Why wouldn't he?

It would be very strange if Sherwood didn't encourage an English lad with English parents to play for England. What else should an Englishman do? Ask any Irish fan if he could occupy a similar position of influence with Grealish what he would do and the answer is simple. Get in his ear.

It is exactly what every Ireland fan wanted Roy Keane to do when he was appointed as assistant boss to Paul Lambert.

That didn't work out well on any level and it certainly didn't help secure a major future talent. Entirely the opposite.

Keane's involvement in this has been ugly and counter-productive and by the time he left Villa Park, the chances of securing Grealish for Ireland had reduced significantly or at best, had not advanced.

His criticism of Kevin Grealish created the impression that Jack's father was a problem. Picture the scene in the Keane household if the roles were reversed and someone criticised the Corkman for being a pushy parent. Not just red mist but thunder and lightening as well

And imagine how Kevin Grealish must feel now if he believes he made no deal with O'Neill or anyone else. From what he has said, his contact with the Ireland management team happened on Tuesday morning. He made no mention of a deal or a phone call on Monday night.

The FAI had no comment to make when the matter was raised but there must be seething frustration among some staff in Abbotstown, particuarly Mark O'Toole and Noel King. Their good work is being wasted.

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