Martin O'Neill still harbouring hope of an Ireland future for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish

The Birmingham-born teenager has rejected the chance of a first senior call-up amid rumours of a potential switch to England.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has insisted to the Irish Independent that Aston Villa youngster Jack Grealish could still have a future with the Boys in Green, despite rejecting the chance of a first senior call-up.

Grealish, 19, has represented Ireland through Under-15 to Under-21 level but his recent emergence on the Premier League scene has led to suggestions that he could be set to switch international allegiances to England.

England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate is known to have watched the Birmingham-born attacker on several occasions and revealed to the Guardian back in October that there had been contact with his family about the possibility of playing for the Three Lions.

“The family and Jack are aware of our interest,” the former Villa defender said. “You are allowed to switch once when you are a young player and Jack is someone we are monitoring and we’ll keep our eye on that situation.”

With the English FA closing in, O’Neill had intended to call Grealish into his squad for next month’s friendly against England and Euro qualifier against Scotland, respectively, in order to steal a march on their advances.

However, when he informed the Villa prospect of his intentions, the Ireland boss was told that he did not want to be involved in either the training camp or the matches themselves.

"I spoke to both Jack and his father and Jack didn't want to make up his mind at this stage," said O'Neill. "I spoke to his father and said that I wanted to pick him. I'm sure that he could in the future [choose Ireland].

"He didn't want to make a decision now. I would have liked to have had him training with us for the week ahead of England game, that's a disappointing aspect."

O’Neill also denied that comments made by his assistant Roy Keane, in which the ex-Villa coach described Grealish’s father as high maintenance, were responsible for the snub, adding: "No I don't think that had an effect. It was taken in a jocular fashion.”

Continuing on the progress he has made under Tim Sherwood’s guidance, O’Neill admitted that the teenager’s recent performances has served to change his mind on whether he is prepared for international football.

"He has played well enough at Aston Villa to suggest he can become a senior international player,” the former Celtic and Villa manager said. "He has played a lot of games since then. Under Tim Sherwood, he has started quite a number of games and in fairness to him, he has made quite a good impression when he's started.

"He's lasting a lot longer in games and doing a lot of good work. Of course, the last four or five weeks have made a big difference to Jack's career and my thinking."

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