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'When I was at Ireland, I wasn't good enough to play for England'

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 21/03/2019 Paul Fennessy

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Michael Keane of Everton looks on during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on March 17, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Michael Keane of Everton looks on during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on March 17, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

EVERTON AND ENGLAND defender Michael Keane has spoken out about his reasons for representing Ireland at underage level.

In the wake of the Declan Rice saga, nationality and dual allegiances has become a much-discussed topic, with Harry Kane another England international who recently discussed his Irish roots.

The 26-year-old centre-back represented the Boys in Green on a handful of occasions at underage level, before opting to switch to England.

“You’ve got to go with where you feel like you belong,” Keane said in an interview with the BBC

“I always thought I belonged with England and that’s why I have always dreamed of playing for England.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Everton v Manchester City - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - February 6, 2019  Everton's Michael Keane during the match   Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  Please contact your account representative for further details. © Catalyst Images Soccer Football - Premier League - Everton v Manchester City - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - February 6, 2019 Everton's Michael Keane during the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

“When I was at Ireland, I wasn’t good enough to play for England at that time. I was only young and small and still developing. I had in the back of my head that hopefully one day I could play for England.

I know when I switched I felt really, really English. My Dad is Irish, but I don’t know any of his Irish family, so I’ve never really felt like I’m fully Irish. That was part of my thinking behind my choice.

“I can’t really give [youngsters] too much advice. I think you have just got to go on your gut feeling. Obviously you have to see how you’re performing week in week out and where you think you could end up in your career.”

Related: Football gossip - Old Trafford trio set for exit [ReadSport]

Keane also backed Rice’s decision, after the West Ham midfielder recently declared for England despite earning three senior non-competitive caps for Ireland.

“I’ve got some sympathy for him. It’s not an easy decision and it wasn’t for me at the time. I can only imagine it’s harder for him,” he said

“You’ve got to go with your instincts and where you feel like you belong. You have to go with where you think you could end up in your career. Declan has made his decision now and we are happy that he is here. Hopefully people now let him display his talents on the football pitch.”

Meanwhile, Keane’s twin brother Will, a striker with Ipswich, recently declared his intention to represent Ireland, having played for England at underage level.   

Listen to the full interview here.

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