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26th Nov 2016

Aston Villa told Jack Grealish to stop playing Gaelic football when he was 13 years old

"It helped me develop"

Darragh Murphy

Jack Grealish has opened up on the thought process that led to him switching allegiances from Ireland to England.

There are not many men who can claim to have both scored a point in Croke Park and won a tournament with England’s U21 side but Grealish is one.

Grealish remains something of a contentious figure among the less forgiving Irish supporters who still don’t appreciate being strung along for so long by the young winger as he mulled over his international future before eventually settling on England.

The Birmingham-born 21-year-old represented Ireland at U17, U18 and U21 level but is now fully committed to England however he has fond memories of his past as a Gaelic footballer and Ireland youth international.

Jack Grealish celebrates scoring 15/11/2013

“I wasn’t really into other sports growing up but I loved Gaelic,” Grealish said in an interview with the Times.

“You can play football in it; you don’t just have to have the ball in your hands, you can just run with the ball [kicking or soloing].

“But when I was 13, Villa told me I need to stop because it’s rough. I still played now and then until I was 15. It helped me develop. When I was young I was always playing above my age but I struggled physically. But getting kicked around at Gaelic, getting shoulder-barged, it helped.”

Accusations of turncoat have been levelled at Grealish ever since he officially declared for England but it was the indecisiveness of the youngster, more than the ultimate decision, that didn’t sit well with a large group of Ireland fans.

But Grealish has nothing but praise for the Irish set-up and he gushed about how well he was treated during his time in the green jersey.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship

And he went on to explain how he rebuffed the advances of England early on in that period of his life before eventually realising that he felt more English than Irish.

“Then Ireland called me up. I played with Ireland, loved it, loved all the lads, the coaching staff, and you get treated well,” Grealish continued.

“England didn’t call me so I carried on playing for Ireland. But a year later England called me. Kenny Swain rang.

“I said: ‘I’m enjoying playing for Ireland.’ So I stayed there.

“But the older I got, I put things into perspective. My grandparents are Irish. But I’m English, I was born here, my parents were born here.”

Dick Clerkin makes his GAA Hour debut to talk about a wonderful career and argue passionately with Colm Parkinson over Sky Sports GAA. Subscribe here on iTunes.

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