Sunday 17 November 2019

Richard Dunne: Ireland should focus on the players we have rather than obsessing over Declan Rice

Read Richard Dunne in The Herald every Friday

Declan Rice considering switching his international allegiances to England
Declan Rice considering switching his international allegiances to England
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

THE Declan Rice matter is a done deal as far as I am concerned.

He will go with England and it’s helping no one, least of all Martin O’Neill, to have so much doubt all over again.

It has gone beyond the decision-making process now and it’s down to the formalities, getting the paperwork done. If you are 19 and you want to play international football for Ireland you just go and do it; you don’t delay and talk about it for four months.

I think any Ireland player I know would find it hard to imagine that there is a decision to be made.

Where is the decision? You are Irish or English, that’s it. If he was staying with Ireland, I think he’d have said that by now.

He wants another month or two to make a call and that suggests to me that he will change to England. Everyone wants to know the answer as to what he will do, and only Declan Rice can give that answer.

If he declares for Ireland, then he will be the best Irish player in the Premier League, someone we can pin our hopes on going forward and know we can rely on him. But he hasn’t said what he is thinking.

He's a 19-year-old who has lots of people in his ear, different influences. He might have the family saying, 'We are Irish' and other people telling him he can make more money with an England career.

We need to move on, for the time being anyway. If there is a chance that Declan Rice will come back, Martin will want to explore that and if he does come back, the talk will be ‘there was never any doubt’.

It’s over for now, Martin has 20-odd players who want to do well against Denmark and Wales and if Rice goes with England, we can’t feel hard done by.

I’d hope that someone who played for Ireland for a few years now, from the underage teams up to the senior caps he won, would be committed but if he’s not you have to move on.

The talk came up against recently about Roy in 2002: were we a better side without Roy at the World Cup? We did really well at the finals and were unfortunate in the end. Things happen and then they pass.

The lads who are there on the ground are the ones you focus on, not the people who are not in the camp for whatever reason. You focus on the present and that’s getting good results against Denmark and the Welsh.

I feel for Martin O’Neill in all of this. He announced his squad yesterday for two important games but all the talk was about Declan Rice. This saga is not of Martin’s making, it’s a player who has created this situation.

Everyone wants to know the ins and outs and Martin can’t know that, it’s going on in Declan Rice’s head.

It seems like the Harry Arter issue has been dealt with, however. It wasn’t Harry Arter’s agent or an unnamed friend who was involved. Harry and Roy Keane seem to have sorted it out but this issue with Rice has other people involved.

I heard about Jon Walters’ comments on radio with Keith Andrews where he said he came back even though he hadn’t really spoken to Roy about what happened.

That’s just Jon and the way he is; he wanted to come back and play for Ireland, regardless of whether Roy rang him to apologise or not.

I am sure Martin would love to have spent the day talking about the players he has in form, or how he plans to play against Denmark, but he was really only asked about Declan Rice.

He didn’t get an opportunity to put across the positives he has, as the negative is a bigger story for people.

The only way now that all this will be forgotten about is when the team win a match and they perform really well, play the way we know Ireland can.

Everything else about the Irish team was overshadowed by the talk about Rice and Harry Arter and, as a player, that’s annoying.

When I played for Ireland, I never liked it when you heard this talk about how we might be getting Kevin Nolan or Mark Noble, everyone getting excited about them.

The rest of us would say, ‘so what? What about the rest of us? We’re here to play. We should get respect instead of someone who might not even come in and play for us.’

Once the squad meets up, the players who turned up should get the respect and the players would like to feel that, from everyone: the media, the fans, the management.

I have given up my time, left my family, maybe played through an injury, to be here with Ireland as I want to play for my country, so why not talk about me and the other lads who turned up, instead of someone who might not even play for us?

You have 25 lads who all want to do well for their country and they will get annoyed by negativity in the camp about other issues. Everyone who turns up will want to play in a team that can win, they won’t want negativity hanging over them and Ireland need to build that now.

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