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Stokes insists he has no reason to apologise

ANTHONY Stokes has insisted that he has nothing to apologise for after failing to report for international duty at the end of last season.

The on-form Celtic striker has been frozen out of the international scene since missing the end of season Nations Cup and Euro qualifier with Macedonia. Shane Long was included in the Ireland squad named by Giovanni Trapattoni this morning, despite a major injury doubt hanging over the WestBrom striker.

However, once again there was no place for Stokes. The Dubliner has emerged as Neil Lennon's first choice striker in recent weeks but despite earning praise for his club form there has been no signs that an international recall is around the corner.

"I haven't spoken to anyone from the FAI," Stokes admitted. "I was one of four people who didn't turn up for the Carling Cup games and I haven't been selected since. "I'd only had three weeks off. I spoke to Celtic and they got in touch with the FAI. I think it got blown out of proportion.

"Hopefully this season I've been a bit more consistent so I've got a better chance of a call-up. I don't think anyone can question my appetite for playing for Ireland. I've played for my country from Under-15s right through to the full international side.

"No one can question my commitment to my country. I've always wanted to play at whatever level I've been selected and it's no different now.

"I want to prove myself to Giovanni Trapattoni and prove I'm worth a place in his squad because his opinion is the only one I'm really bothered about.

"A lot of people expect it to be one-sided against Estonia and that Ireland will fly through, but it's going to be really tough.

"It would be brilliant to qualify. If I could get myself back in the squad I'd be one of the happiest people around but even if I'm not in the squad it would be great for the country if Ireland progressed."

Stokes' form has been in contrast with that of his Celtic team mates who've managed to get themselves 10 points behind a Rangers team threatened with administration- or worse.