Thursday 24 January 2019

James McClean unimpressed with Declan Rice's Ireland hesitation as Martin O'Neill gives him time to mull over England 'promise'


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has called on Ireland fans to give Declan Rice space to make a decision on his international future.

But the Derryman has indicated that he is ready to live on the player's doorstep in order to convince him that turning his back on Ireland would be the wrong course of action.

Rice has turned down a call-up for next Thursday's UEFA Nations League tie with Wales that would have committed his long-term future to Ireland.

He is deliberating on his options after an approach from England boss Gareth Southgate. The decision has drawn an angry backlash from supporters after Rice starred in three senior friendlies earlier this year.

O'Neill has urged supporters to be patient but suggested he will keep pressing the 19-year-old.

"It will be mostly in his court but I don't think there is any harm whatsoever in living on his doorstep," said O'Neill.

"We have been incredibly keen, we want him, and those things are very important eventually when someone is making a final decision.

"If England have gone and promised him something, maybe that's something he will have to take into consideration but I am still hopeful.

"If you're looking at it in terms of percentage, let's be fair about it, he will play more often for Ireland."

O’Neill has not set Rice a deadline to make a decision but indicated he will need to know well in advance of the start of the Euro 2020 qualifiers proper next March.

Even if England offered Rice a call-up now, he would have to go through a lengthy process of paperwork to gain clearance.

O’Neill understands the attraction of an approach from England.

“If I was managing England I’d obviously do the very same thing,” said O’Neill. “I’d make sure that there is not a talent that I might have missed somewhere down the way and, of course he has put Declan in a bit of a dilemma.

“It would be nice if I was actually capping someone born in Kerry or Limerick or Dublin.”

James McClean last night indicated he was unimpressed with Rice’s hesitation. He responded to a tweet from ex-Ireland international Kevin Kilbane who said he would rather be ranked 150th in the world and never qualify for tournaments than wait around for a player to decide who he wants to play with.

“Bang on lad,” replied McClean. “Representing your country should be an honour and a proud moment.”

O’Neill admitted that losing Rice would be a bigger disappointment than Jack Grealish’s decision to switch side.

“His dad was out in Turkey. I’ve been in his father’s house and he has got the shirts there so I know where the dad’s allegiance lies anyway, even though he was born in England,” said O’Neill.

“When I came into the job, obviously the one with Jack Grealish was going on and I thought that Jack’s father was very strongly pro England at the time.”

Irish Independent

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