Sunday 22 July 2018

Reading young gun Liam Kelly remains open to playing for Ireland

Liam Kelly
Liam Kelly
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Liam Kelly is open to the prospect of playing for the Republic of Ireland in the future and was not fit enough to meet up with Martin O'Neill's squad for this week's game in Turkey, Independent.ie understands.

Kelly hit the headlines when O'Neill suggested he had been informed that the Reading youngster had turned down the opportunity to join up with the Ireland squad ahead of the international against Turkey in Antalya, with the Ireland boss making his position clear when he spoke to the media.

"You might want to ask about Liam Kelly who I think wants to keep his options open at this minute," declared O'Neill on Tuesday. "Obviously, he's born in England and wants to keep those options open and that's fine.

"What did I do? I did actually leave a message or two and he got back to me by text. I've always said here that it's the player's choice. It's exactly what it is and if he wants to think that England might come in, that's entirely his decision."

Despite those comments, Independent.ie understands that Kelly's primary motivation during this international break was to focus on his efforts to be fully fit for Reading's final eight games of the season, with his club currently in a desperate fight to stave off relegation from the Championship.

The Reading playmaker has been nursing an ankle problem in recent weeks, with the injury forcing his manager Jaap Stam to replace him after 62 minutes of last Saturday's game at Norwich.

Liam Kelly with Independent.ie's Kevin Palmer back in 2014
Liam Kelly with Independent.ie's Kevin Palmer back in 2014

Kelly scored in that game before he was taken off and he also fired in a spectacular long-range effort in last month's 3-3 draw against Derby, cementing the 22-year-old's status as the shining light in a side that has failed to match last season's run to the play-off final.

Kelly's efforts were not enough to keep manager Stam in a job, with the departure of a manager who has embraced his talents over the last couple of seasons confirmed on Wednesday as Reading made one final move to try and beat the drop into League One.

It's safe to assume that Reading were not keen for their star man Kelly to meet up with Ireland given the delicate nature of their current predicament, but the player's reluctance to meet up with O'Neill's squad on this occasion was not due to his desire to chase a call-up to the England squad and more motivated by his injury problem.

Kelly has made his mark at underage level for Ireland and scored a famous goal from the half-way line for the under-19s back in 2013 and he gave his only major interview when he spoke to the Sunday World shortly after that strike, with his eagerness to pursue a career with Ireland evident in these comments.

"I always knew there was a possibility that I could play for Ireland and it is something I was desperate to do," stated English-born Kelly, who qualifies for Ireland via his Mayo-born grandfather Tony and his Leitrim-born grandmother Mary.

"The pride I felt pulling on the green shirt was fantastic and when you hear the anthem being played, you get that special feeling, one you will never get playing at club level. I feel so privileged to play for Ireland and to see the pride in my parents and grandparents with the way it has gone has been brilliant."

Online Editors

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport