Ireland defender Stephen Kelly has hit back at suggestions by manager Giovanni Trapattoni that he only wanted to join up with the squad if he was guaranteed to play.
The 29-year-old full-back was not in Dublin for Wednesday night's 2-0 friendly victory over Poland despite the absence of the injured Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Seamus Coleman and Darren O'Dea, with the latter excused to continue his pre-season preparations with Major League Soccer side Toronto FC.
Asked about his absence, Trapattoni said: "You know what happened in the situation with Kelly? 'I play or I go home'". A furious Kelly responded on Friday morning by issuing a statement in which he reaffirmed his commitment to his country. He said: "It is extremely disappointing for me to have to make this statement."
"These hurtful and untrue comments have caused distress and upset to myself and my family, who have supported me throughout my career and know the level of commitment and passion I have always shown in representing my country.
"I have proudly represented Ireland from the age of 16, and I have never shown anything other than 100 per cent commitment to my country and my team.
"I cannot and will not tolerate attempts to defame my commitment and loyalty to Ireland.
"Representing Ireland at senior international level has given me some of my proudest moments in my professional career, and for me captaining my country will always be my greatest achievement.
"It saddens me greatly that I should have to defend my good character and reputation in a profession I love. However, I refuse to allow anyone to question my passion for representing Ireland. I will continue as always to proudly be available for my country."
Kelly, who has 32 senior caps, was a surprise omission from the squad when it was announced last month, although the mild-mannered former Fulham player is understood to have had a major disagreement with Trapattoni's assistant, Marco Tardelli, after being left out of the team for the 6-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Germany at the Aviva Stadium in October.