Sport Soccer

Saturday 18 November 2017

Grealish out to celebrate on double by beating Germany

Noel King says Jack Grealish has the potential to emulate Robbie Brady
Noel King says Jack Grealish has the potential to emulate Robbie Brady

John Fallon

IRELAND U-21 winger Jack Grealish would love to celebrate his entrance to adulthood by facing the biggest test of his budding career tonight against Germany at the Showgrounds (7.45).

Noel King's side host the Germans in a pivotal 2015 UEFA European Championship qualifier, after both sides opened the campaign by beating the Faroe Islands away by three-goal margins.

Aston Villa tyro Grealish, who turns 18 tomorrow, was handed his U-21 debut in that 4-1 victory last month, shortly after he rejected the advances of England.

The English FA made their approach when the Birmingham-born player was left on the bench by Ireland U-19 manager Paul Doolin for all three of last October's UEFA first-phase qualifiers.

Ireland lost promising Manchester United defender Michael Keane to England in similar circumstances last year.

However, King stepped in to assure Grealish and his family that he was an integral part of his plans, a vow honoured last month when he became the youngest player to be capped during King's three-year tenure.

Conspiracy theorists may brand Grealish's two-minute cameo in Toftir as a ploy by Ireland to block him switching to England but he can still do so in future U-21 campaigns.

Celebrate

Regardless, Grealish – on the Villa first-team bench at 16 for a Premier League game against Chelsea – insists he wants to stay in the Irish fold.

"It's my 18th birthday on Tuesday, so another Ireland cap would be a nice way to celebrate," said the youngster, who scored for Paul Lambert's first team in pre-season against Walsall.

"I made up my mind a few months ago that Ireland was the best for me and I'm happy with the decision.

"It was disappointing not to play any of those U-19 qualifiers last season in Luxembourg but it's a team game and the main thing is the lads got through to the next round.

"I didn't know what was going to happen after that. But I thought about it for a while and didn't want to switch.

"My U-21 debut in the Faroes was the first time in over a year that I pulled on that green jersey.

"It made me feel very proud. Games against Germany don't come around often and I'm delighted to be in the squad."

King lost Derrick Williams (Bristol City) and Frankie Sutherland (QPR) from his squad to injury over the weekend but still reckons there's enough talent in his ranks to test the visitors.

"As top seeds, Germany will expect to win here but we'll be ready for them," said King of the 2009 champions.

"We'll have another full house in Sligo supporting us, so I'm confident our lads will rise to the challenge."

IRELAND (probable) – A McCarey (Wolves); J Shaughnessy (Aberdeen), S Duffy (Everton), A O'Connor (Blackburn), S McGinty (Sheffield Utd); M Doherty (Wolves), C Reilly (Birmingham); J Grealish (Aston Villa), S Carruthers (MK Dons), S Murray (Watford); A O'Brien (Millwall).

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