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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Reading's Liam Kelly turns down Republic of Ireland call-up to keep England option open

Reading midfielder Liam Kelly has told Martin O'Neill he wants to keep his options open in case England come calling after declining a call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad.
The 22-year-old was named in an initial 30-man squad for the Republic's training camp near Antalya this week ahead of Friday's friendly against Turkey, but was not among the final 25 who flew out from Dublin on Monday.
O'Neill revealed Basingstoke-born Kelly, who represented Ireland at Under-18 and Under-21 levels, had declined the offer to join up after putting his players through their paces at the Regnum Sports Centre in Belek on Tuesday afternoon.
He said: "You might want to ask about Liam Kelly, who I think wants to keep his options open at this minute. Obviously, he's born in England and wants to keep those options open and that's fine.
"I've always said here 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."
Asked if he had spoken to the player, who had twice before been named in provisional squads, O'Neill added: "What I did do, I did actually leave a message or two and he got back to me by text."
Kelly is one of a new group of players who O'Neill has turned to as he attempts to re-shape his squad after missing out on World Cup qualification.
If O'Neill was disappointed by Kelly's response, he admitted it did not come as a complete surprise.
He said: "When we went into the squad, he had not returned a lot of calls coming through at the time.
"Despite the fact that I knew where he was born, I thought that was okay. I spoke to his agent some quite considerable time ago and I think that was always going to be okay, I felt."
Of those who did make it onto the plane, there are eight uncapped players - Aaron McCarey, Kieran O'Hara, Matt Doherty, Declan Rice, Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams, Enda Stevens and Scott Hogan - who all trained on Tuesday.
Rice, who was born in London, is another who had a decision to make after his call-up, with England boss Gareth Southgate saying in January "we are aware of his situation" but the West Ham defender has made it clear where his allegiances lie.
"There's no decision to be made," said Rice, who picked up the Republic of Ireland Under-19 Player of the Year gong at the FAI Awards on Sunday night.
"I'm here with Ireland and I've been called up by Martin. I'm really looking forward to this week and I'm looking forward to getting to know the boys better.
"I haven't had a call from anyone at the FA. Not at all. England have never wanted me at underage level, it's always been Ireland."
O'Neill added on Rice: "I think he's pretty strong and hopefully that will work out."