Saturday 23 March 2019

Richard Dunne: 'We've had times when youth players didn't show up because they were in camp with England, that's allowed to happen'

Read Richard Dunne every Friday in The Herald

Declan Rice will never don the Ireland jersey again
Declan Rice will never don the Ireland jersey again
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

While helping out with coaching the Ireland U16 squad a while ago, I found myself in a car with the father of a player, a very good player, who was in our squad but was also eligible for England.

The player’s dad was saying that he wanted the boy to play for England and it was up to us, in the FAI, to convince him to play for Ireland.

My first thought was: what is he doing here if he’s going to just play for England? If he wants to play for England’s U16s and has a chance to do that, I’d just let him.

I had 80 caps for my country, if you want to play, you just go and play.

It’s not good enough for someone to say, ‘I want to play for England when I grow up but for now I’ll just play for Ireland’.

If the lad is good enough then let him go and prove himself with England, not waste everyone’s time. International football should not be something you try out and then decide.

To prevent more issues like the Declan Rice one, I feel we need to stop begging players to play for us. But the rules also need to be looked at, where players can switch the way Rice did.

Ireland need to be stronger and say ‘we’d love you to come and play for us but if you do want to play for England, just go and do it’.

We have always been a team built on pride and if you have doubt in a player’s mind, it’s a problem.

I have worked with the Ireland U16s and you hear of players who can’t come into the camp as they are away with England at the same age group, and that is all allowed to happen.

At those U16 games, you overhear scouts saying that such and such a player has an opportunity to go and play for Scotland and he wants to wait and see.

I have sympathy for the FAI over the Declan Rice issue, as they put so much investment in terms of coaching into young players and then a senior player goes and defects to another nation.

Even though that’s the player’s country of birth, it’s difficult to take.

Now we have to try and find another player Mick can build a team around.

I never had the option to play for anyone else other than Ireland but I don’t see how you can have a choice – you play for one country and that should be it.

Down the years we have benefited from bringing in English-born players. But the difference now is the money involved.

Playing in the Premier League in England as a ‘home grown’ player is more important now. There is more value on a player who is an England international. and I am sure that Rice had looked at it and realised he can earn more by playing for England.

He will have more value in terms of a transfer if he is an England international, he will earn more.

There’s no guarantee that England will win a major tournament and no guarantee that Rice will even play regularly, as they have so many good young players, whereas you just know that he would have got 100 caps with Ireland because we don’t have that quality of player coming through.

We have to be more careful over how we do things in the future. I don’t think Declan’s career would have been as good as it has been without those caps he got with Ireland.  I feel that playing international football allowed him to prove that he could play at a high level.

So we, in Ireland, have to be careful that the players we are developing are with Ireland for the right reasons and not just to further their club careers, or their international prospects with someone else.

Maybe the four UK nations and ourselves need to sit down and have some sort of gentleman’s agreement, where if you go so far down the line with one country, you don’t switch, as I don’t think FIFA will change the rules just to suit the likes of Ireland.

To me, the issue was done when Rice pulled out of the squad last year. Once he did that, it was over. You don’t pull out of a squad and then make up your mind to come back and play for Ireland. As soon as we wanted him to stay and play for us, he was always going to go with England.

From Mick McCarthy’s point of view, even though he has lost a player, he will be relieved the issue is done now and he won’t have to talk about it any more.

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