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Roy Keane is hoping that Jack Grealish will continue to blossom and commit his future to Ireland despite being lured by England. Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane is hoping that Jack Grealish will continue to blossom and commit his future to Ireland despite being lured by England. Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane is hoping that Jack Grealish will continue to blossom and commit his future to Ireland despite being lured by England. Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

With Roy Keane yesterday sounding upbeat about the possibility of keeping Aston Villa star Jack Grealish free of England's clutches, he'll be hoping tonight doesn't bring the curtain down on the teen's Ireland career.

The 18-year-old will be the senior member of Noel King's otherwise experimental U-21 outfit aiming to complete their Euro qualifying campaign on a highpoint in Halle (5.0) after their qualification ambitions disintegrated with defeat to Montenegro in March.

To do so, they'll need to overpower a Germany side in their own backyard on the brink of reaching the play-offs and with Liverpool's €12m pre-season capture Emre Can at the hub of their artillery.

Grealish, despite parking his long-term international allegiance for now amid courting from his homeland of England, assured King he'd see out a campaign that he started 13 months ago in the Faroe Islands as a fresh-faced 17-year-old.

Much has changed for Grealish and Villa in the interim, his spell on loan at Notts County confirming the arrival of a player of more than ordinary talent.

Keane, too, has entered the aerospace of the teen as second in command at Villa, enough to convince the Corkman of Grealish's calibre. So much so that the Ireland assistant boss yesterday revealed his willingness to unleash his trademark persuasive streak upon the youngster.

"He's played for Ireland already and will play for the U-21s in Germany," said Keane.

"He could have worse dilemmas to deal with, couldn't he? He's a really good player and I enjoy working with him.

"We'd love to have him on board. And we know we haven't got a massive group of players to pick from, so if he comes on board it'll be absolutely fantastic because I think he's got a chance of being a really good player."

Pressed on whether he could bring his influence at Villa to bear on Grealish's international future, Keane quipped: "That depends what mood I'm in. I can threaten him."

Grealish is one of several members in King's squad to have sampled first-team exposure at club level recently.

Late call-up Eoghan O'Connell, cousin of Ireland rugby captain Paul, featured in Celtic's most recent pair of SPL matches while Tommie Hoban has lined out for Watford.

Injured

O'Connell was called in on Tuesday when full-back Sean Kavanagh, who has just made the breakthrough into the Fulham first team, was forced to withdraw because of injury.

Sean Long at Reading and Conor Wilkinson of Bolton Wanderers were also handed bows and Tottenham Hotspur winger Kenny McEvoy recently joined League One club Peterborough United on loan.

Goalkeeper Ian Lawlor has been part of Manchester City's Champions League squads as well as the Ireland full panel for the end-of-season series in May and June.

"Germany's record of results speak for itself," admitted Celtic full-back O'Connell. "The objective for myself anyway is to get my first cap and hopefully make sure I stay in the squad for the next set of qualifiers."

King added: "Germany away is one of the toughest fixtures for any nation given the resources are their disposal but the lads are determined to be competitive in today's game.

"We won't know our opposition for the next campaign campaign until the draw is made in February. So the friendly against Qatar in May, this last qualifier in Germany, and another friendly in Norway next month will act as preparatory work for that campaign.

"Nobody gave much of a chance to the last group of U-21s two years ago when they travelled to face group winners Italy but they returned with a 4-2 victory."

IRELAND (probable): I Lawlor (Manchester City); E O'Connell (Celtic), T Hoban (Watford), S Long (Reading), J Connors (Dagenham & Redbridge); D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), J Byrne (Manchester City); K McEvoy (Peterborough Utd), J Grealish (Aston Villa), S Byrne (Everton); C Wilkinson (Bolton Wanderers).

Irish Independent