Saturday 21 September 2019

FAI confident following talks between Declan Rice and Mick McCarthy

DECISION: Declan Rice. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
DECISION: Declan Rice. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Ger Keville and John Fallon

The FAI are confident of edging England in the race to earn Declan Rice's international allegiance after new Ireland manager Mick McCarthy met with the West Ham United player this week.

McCarthy made it a priority upon taking the job three weeks to sit down for the talks with the 19-year-old who has become the subject of a tug-of-war over the past year.

Rice dropped a bombshell on previous manager Martin O’Neill by making himself unavailable for the Nations League game against Wales in September.

Despite representing Ireland from U-16 to U-21 level, and winning three caps in friendlies this year, the Londoner left open the option of switching by avoiding a competitive outing.

England manager Gareth Southgate didn’t waste time in inviting the Premier League regular to the association’s headquarters St George’s Park.

There he was told in the form of a video presentation how he could fit into the system which had been successful in reaching the World Cup semi-final in the summer.

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

O’Neill dismissed the notion of Rice’s switch being agreed, contending the player and his family would give the matter further thought before making a decision by the end of the year.

Once McCarthy took over three weeks ago, he took less than 24 hours to phone Rice’s father, Sean, whose parents were born in Cork.

That paved the way for the meeting which was held in London earlier this week.

“Mick has spoken to my dad and he wants to meet us, which I said was fine,” said Rice recently.

“There are a lot of things going on with my football at the moment. I’m playing week in, week out and obviously there’s my contract situation, which is a lot to take on at a young age.

“The England/Ireland situation is a lot to take on. I’m just focused on playing for West Ham and I said that to Martin O’Neill when he was Ireland boss and he totally understood.”

It remains to be seen whether Rice will solve his dilemma this week.

At least McCarthy has been afforded the opportunity of conveying directly how vital he foresees Rice in his team for the Euro 2020 qualification campaign kicking off in March.

Were Rice to follow the lead of Jack Grealish by ditching Ireland, he would need to make his application to FIFA immediately to be eligible in time for England’s first qualifier against Czech Republic in March.

The switchover usually takes around three months to process by the world governing body.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport