Thursday 20 September 2018

‘Am I going to go and see him after that? No’ – Martin O’Neill stands firm on Liam Kelly issue

McGeady future in doubt after rough time at Sunderland

Liam Kelly
Liam Kelly
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

As the business end of the English football season approaches, Martin O'Neill will limit his discussions with Ireland players involved in promotion and relegation battles.

And he certainly has no plans to pick up the phone to speak to Liam Kelly, the Reading player who appears to have dirtied his bib with Irish management by refusing to accept a call for last month's training camp in Turkey.

O'Neill said he was told that the 22-year-old wanted to keep his options open in case England came knocking.

There have been attempts from Kelly's side to challenge that version of events and claim there were other reasons for turning down the call-up.

It is clear, however, that O'Neill is sceptical and the midfielder will have to do the chasing if he wants to revive his Irish ambitions.

With Reading still in danger of dropping to League One with one Championship game remaining, it's apparent that the Derryman is a bit bemused by the fuss surrounding his intentions - the fact that a text message was the player's preferred method of contract also troubled him.

Categoric

"There was a number of stories emanated after that about his position," said O'Neill."His position was pretty categoric. I said this before, it was verified by the club itself.

"At the end of it all, the comment from the club was that he wanted to keep his options open in case England came calling. Fine, I haven't a problem with that. Am I going to go and see him after that? No.

"If the player wants to come and say, 'Listen here, I've had a think about it and I really do fancy it,' I think that's a different proposition.

"The lad didn't get back to me, he sent me a text message about four or five days afterwards. At the end of it all, I'm not going to push it. It's up to the players."

That has been O'Neill's stance and he was happy to go and watch promotion-chasing Preston attacker Callum Robinson over the weekend after he confirmed his declaration for Ireland.

He suggested that the player still has work to do to play himself into his plans. Similarly, he is also keeping an eye on Sydney's Australian-born midfielder Brandon O'Neill, although a conversation with Emile Heskey confirmed his view that the A-League should not be underestimated.

O'Neill, for his part, does not feel it's at the level of the improving MLS - he says he would have no problems if Irish players opted to head Stateside.

That is certainly a better scenario than dropping to League One, which is where Aiden McGeady's Sunderland are heading.

The Glaswegian is likely to be left out of the Irish summer gathering which consists of a game with Celtic for Scott Brown's testimonial and then official friendlies with France and the USA.

It's expected that the international retirements of John O'Shea and Glenn Whelan will be confirmed in the coming weeks with the USA game functioning as a time to say goodbye.

O'Neill indicated that McGeady - who is recovering from a heel injury - is not seeking to hang up his Irish boots. But his future Irish plans could be taken out of his hands.

"I will see," said the Irish boss. "If the heel problem doesn't clear up, we will perhaps leave him for the summer time and see where we stand in the new year (season) but he hasn't mentioned retirement."

Jon Walters is keen to come in for the summer games, but they will come too soon for Robbie Brady.

There were reports that James McCarthy was progressing well in his recovery from a leg break, yet his international boss senses that a comeback in time for the UEFA Nations League games in the autumn would be a long shot.

O'Neill is likely to bring a fringe squad to Celtic Park for the May 20 fixture to honour Brown which is likely to be a non-event seeing as Celtic go for the domestic treble in the Scottish Cup final 24 hours earlier.

Several of Ireland's Premier League players also had mini-holiday plans in place when the game was organised and O'Neill will not trouble them.

With the regular Championship season finishing this weekend, it's individuals not involved in the play-offs who are more likely candidates for the Scottish leg of the summer work.

Millwall look set to miss out now, but Shaun Williams might still have to be patient, having gone public on his disappointment at his exclusion from Turkey.

"Millwall have done brilliantly and the lad Williams has been at the heart of it, I've seen a bit of him and he's done well," said O'Neill.

"In my early days here, I saw him playing for them and the very fact I didn't put him in the squad might at that time might suggest something.

"But he's had a really good season. I'll give it some consideration."

Irish Independent

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