Sunday 26 February 2017

Revealed: Martin O'Neill to hold a second meeting with highly-rated Danny Crowley

John Fallon

Danny Crowley
Danny Crowley

MARTIN O’NEILL will hold further discussions with Arsenal teen Danny Crowley before deciding whether to bring him into his Ireland squad for next month’s friendlies against Holland and Belarus.

As the Coventry-born midfielder represented England’s Under-19s last year, he wouldn’t be eligible to play in the games. FIFA’s formal application can take up to five months but the possibility of the 18-year-old being invited to train with the senior squad, as Jack Byrne did in March, is very much alive.

O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane held what was believed to be an encouraging meeting with Crowley and his father, David, recently.

“I have met him (Crowley) and am in the process of arranging another meeting,” revealed the Ireland manager.

“He’s a player with plenty of confidence; I wish I had the same. I’ll have a look at that (drafting him into the friendlies). I need to have another conversation and I’ll let you know after the second visit.”

Asked whether there was a desire from the player’s side to pledge his allegiance, the Derryman was circumspect. “Yes, there is…I’m not being evasive.”

Martin O'Neill (SPORTSFILE)
Martin O'Neill (SPORTSFILE)

O’Neill reluctance to delve deeper into the subject is understandable given the sensitivity around youngsters being courted by both Ireland and England. He seems, however, to have learned his lesson from the Jack Grealish saga by taking a proactive approach in this particular tug-of-war over a dual-eligible rising star.

Although he hasn’t played a game for Arsenal, Crowley is considered one of their most promising youngsters at a time Ireland have a dearth of players with realistic potential of breaking into the first-teams of top-level Premier League clubs.

Crowley has never hid his Irish roots. The FAI became aware of his eligibility through his Waterford-based relatives when he was just 14 and he represented Ireland until Under-17 level.

At that point, he was bizarrely cut from their squad for the UEFA elite qualifiers, hastening his switch to the England for their UEFA U-19 campaign last October.

It was around that time O’Neill picked up the telephone and rang the Crowley family to make clear his interest in possibly fast-tracking him into the Irish fold. The player sparkled earlier this season during a loan spell at League One, especially against higher-calibre opposition in the League Cup tie against Everton, and the FAI had to move fast to avoid another Grealish debacle.

Unlike Crowley, Grealish was not approached by O’Neill until he’d broken into the Aston Villa first-team and was established as the finest prospect in Ireland’s U-21 team. He would have gladly accepted a senior call-up to the senior fold for the trip to the United States that summer but the snub influenced him to park his international decision and eventual defection to the English FA.

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