Saturday 23 February 2019

Patient McCarthy sees Rice as captain material if he sticks with Ireland

Mick McCarthy: On player hunt. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Mick McCarthy: On player hunt. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Mick McCarthy is prepared to wait until he names his first squad in March for Declan Rice to reaffirm his commitment to the Ireland cause.

Speaking yesterday, the Ireland manager posted an upbeat assessment of the recent meeting he and his assistant Robbie Keane held with the dual-eligible Londoner.

Rice, who made his 50th senior appearance for West Ham United in Saturday's defeat to Watford, has yet to make a final call on his international future amid an offer from England manager Gareth Southgate to defect.

McCarthy, who admitted during an appearance on the Sky's 'Goals on Sunday' that he'd have preferred a contract lasting beyond just this Euro 2020 campaign, would like to build his new team around the 19-year-old.

Much like his predecessor Martin O'Neill, the Barnsley native has high hopes for the teen in an Ireland jersey, forecasting the captaincy and entrance into the centurion club should he stay loyal.

Drench

McCarthy appeared to drench cold water on reports of an imminent update by Rice on the outcome of his five-month international dilemma.

"I had a really good meeting with Declan," explained McCarthy, who tried to sign Rice on loan when he was Ipswich Town manager.

"Robbie was there and so was Declan's father Sean and it's up to Declan as to when he wants to decide. That's how I left it.

"We start our qualifiers in March against Gibraltar and Georgia. I need to know by then - that's my deadline.

"Declan is a really talented player and he's a lovely lad. It's everything about him that you want him to play for us. I'd build my team around Declan and he could be our future captain. Becoming a player with 100 caps would give him a nice profile."

McCarthy would favour enlisting a few more English-born recruits, including Nathan Redmond and Patrick Bamford.

The latter made one appearance for Ireland at U-18 level before switching to England but hasn't ruled out joining the Irish ranks.

"Patrick is eligible, a terrific goalscorer and someone I intend speaking to," McCarthy said yesterday.

"My assistant Terry Connor has gone to see him play for Leeds United (although Bamford was a late injury withdrawal for the 3-2 win against Aston Villa)."

Meanwhile, McCarthy has confessed his preference was to agree a longer-term contract on his return to the Ireland job last month.

Under the agreement, newly-appointed U-21 manager Stephen Kenny is to replace the incumbent once Ireland's participation in the campaign is over.

Even if Ireland fail to secure a top-two finish from their qualifying group by next November, a back-door route through the Nations League play-offs in March 2020 is likely to be open.

"I went into talks with the FAI looking for two terms," he outlined.

"People must remember that I've got no friendlies to prepare for the Euro qualifiers, so it would've been nice to get the World Cup campaign too."

Irish Independent

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