sport news Jack Grealish chose England over Republic of Ireland but there's no ill-feeling

There is a picture on the wall of the Grealish family home in Birmingham of a teenage Jack in the colours of his country - Republic of Ireland, that is.

Still just 17 and yet to kick a ball for Aston Villa, he was already a starter for Ireland's Under 21s. In Dublin and beyond, word was spreading of the English-born prodigy seemingly so happy in green.

With hindsight, Ireland should have acted then, playing on the lure of international exposure for one so young and stitching his allegiance to their jersey. 

Jack Grealish played for the Republic of Ireland up to Under-21 level before choosing England

Jack Grealish played for the Republic of Ireland up to Under-21 level before choosing England

The FA of Ireland awarded Grealish, seen here with grandmother Margaret, their Under-21 Player of the Year award in 2015 but it didn't persuade him to commit to them

The FA of Ireland awarded Grealish, seen here with grandmother Margaret, their Under-21 Player of the Year award in 2015 but it didn't persuade him to commit to them

Now the Aston Villa star is making his mark in the England team and could play against Ireland when the two sides meet at Wembley on Thursday night

Now the Aston Villa star is making his mark in the England team and could play against Ireland when the two sides meet at Wembley on Thursday night

That would have meant a senior debut for a boy only just finding his feet in the men's game, but the temptation was there. 

Ireland boss Martin O'Neill made several trips to Notts County, where Grealish was on loan, only to determine he was not physically ready for the senior stage.

It would perhaps be wrong to look back and criticise O'Neill - some in Ireland do - given qualification for Euro 2016 was his priority, and there is debate as to whether the midfielder would have declined the call-up anyway, like he did in the summer of 2015.

But as England's new star prepares to face Ireland for the first time on Thursday evening, some do wonder if a little more cunning was needed in securing the future of such an obvious talent.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny hinted at as much this week when, having been asked about Grealish, he spoke of 'exceptional' players accelerating through the age ranks 'quicker'.  

Former Ireland boss Martin O'Neill (left) and his assistant Roy Keane were told by Grealish and his father Kevin that he would be choosing England

Former Ireland boss Martin O'Neill (left) and his assistant Roy Keane were told by Grealish and his father

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