Reading defender Stephen Kelly has hit back at Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni after the Italian tactician questioned the player's enthusiasm to play for his country.
Trapattoni told reporters at a post-match press conference on Thursday February 7 that Kelly had issued him with the ultimatum of 'I play or I go home', suggesting that the player did not display the requisite desire to play for the Boys in Green.
However, the former Fulham defender has released a statement expressing dismay at what he describes as the manager's 'untrue and unwarranted comments'.
Kelly's statement reads: "It is extremely disappointing for me to have to make this statement. I am simply shocked and disgusted with the untrue and unwarranted comments made by Giovanni Trapattoni.
"These hurtful and untrue comments have caused distress and upset to myself and my family who have supported me throughout my career and know the level of commitment and passion I have always shown in representing my country.
"I have proudly represented Ireland from the age of sixteen, and I have never shown anything other than 100 per cent commitment to my country and my team. I cannot and will not tolerate attempts to defame my commitment and loyalty to Ireland.
"Representing Ireland at senior international level has given me some of my proudest moments in my professional career, and for me captaining my country will always be my greatest achievement.
"It saddens me greatly that I should have to defend my good character and reputation in a profession I love, however, I refuse to allow anyone to question my passion for representing Ireland.
"I will continue as always to proudly be available for my country."
Meanwhile, an FAI spokesperson has requested that matters relating to the national team between the manager and players be kept in house. It is not the first time that Kelly and Trapattoni have crossed swords. In October it was reported that the defender refused to board the team's flight to the Faroe Islands for a World Cup qualifier and had to be coaxed back to the fold. A statement read: "Everyone knows that Giovanni is a great manager with a lot of experience but the association feels team matters like the one before the Faroe Islands that was reported yesterday should really be dealt with in private."