Saturday 24 August 2019

'Jack Grealish and Declan Rice would definitely be playing for Ireland' - Stephen Kenny says talking is key

Stephen Kenny and (inset) Rice and Grealish
Stephen Kenny and (inset) Rice and Grealish
Ireland U-21 boss Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Ireland U-21 boss Stephen Kenny feels that Irish football lost out on talents like Declan Rice and Jack Grealish due to the lack of a good relationship between Martin O'Neill and the Irish underage scene.

Grealish and Rice both played at U-21 level for Ireland during O'Neill's reign as senior team boss, while Rice also appeared in three friendlies at senior level.

However, both players went on to defect to England, with Rice since winning three senior caps for his native country.

And Kenny, speaking on Eamon Dunphy's 'The Stand' podcast, has pointed the finger at O'Neill.

"If there was a better relationship at the time between Under-15, -16, -17, -18, -19, and senior managers, you would feel that both Jack Grealish and Declan Rice would definitely be playing for Ireland now," he said. "They would have been fast-tracked earlier and into the first team.

"Jack Grealish played Gaelic for Warwickshire all the way up in England. He did feel a sense of Irishness," added Kenny, stating that the duo should have been integrated into the senior set-up "much earlier".

But he did back up O'Neill's theory that the FAI should not be trying to persuade undecided players to declare.

"We don't need to try and convince people they're Irish. We're not interested in that. We need people that it means everything to them," Kenny added. "I understand that there is the concept of dual nationality and that can be quite complex.

"People feel English and Irish or Nigerian and Irish or whatever it is. I understand that.

"We can't be naive," added the former Dundalk boss.

Irish Independent

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