Hunt for English-born talent will continue, insists U-17 boss
Ireland U-17 boss Tom Mohan says the FAI are well within their rights to continue scouring the UK for players like Jack Grealish who are eligible to wear the green jersey.
Grealish's heroics for Aston Villa on Sunday and the subsequent speculation about his international position have led to a broader debate in England about the fairness of the 'grandparents rule' and the very real prospect of the FA missing out on a Birmingham boy.
The teenager was first spotted at the age of 13 by London-based scout Mark O'Toole and Mohan, who is preparing for next month's European Championships in Bulgaria, says that unearthing cubs with Irish connections is essential for a country of our size.
"Mark is very useful, he has his finger on the pulse over the south of England and continues to do massive work over there like our other scouts," said Mohan yesterday.
"The rules are there and we're abiding by them. If there are players there who are eligible for us, we'll go after them and do our best to get them and that's it."
"We're a small nation, the young players over there are eligible for us, you've got to make the most of it and the players that we have in are keen to play for Ireland, they're enthusiastic."
There is a strong local flavour in Mohan's squad but they were strengthened in the qualifiers by Connor Ronan, who was involved with the English U-17 set-up earlier this year. The Rochdale lad could now play against the English in Bulgaria as part of a tough group completed by Holland and Italy.
"Connor is a very talented player," says Mohan. "He has a lot of technical ability and a very good attitude."
The former Finn Harps midfielder asserted that the attitude with regard to overseas recruitment is to unearth youths that are better than what is available at home. Yet he believes that the Irish system is producing homegrown talent of sufficient quality.
"I feel we're producing good players here," he continued, " I've been working with the U-17s for eight seasons and there have been good players - Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, boys like that. It's just difficult for lads to break into first-team football.
"There's a massive amount of work going on. Qualifying is a reflection on the work outside beforehand to get players to this level."
Mohan was speaking at Johnstown House in Enfield where 24 players have reported for a training camp this week.
He is hoping that four highly regarded absentees will have overcome injuries in time for selection, with doubts surrounding Dubliners Conor Masterson (Liverpool), Steven Kinsella (Everton) and Brandon Payne (Celtic) and Cambridge-born Anthony Scully (West Ham).
The latter, a son of ex-Irish U-21 international Tony, is another who has spent time under the auspices of both the FA and the FAI but Mohan says he is available if he can prove his fitness. The 18-man squad will be named next week.
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