Wednesday 21 February 2018

Teenager Declan Rice offers some Irish hope in a bleak winter

Declan Rice of West Ham United. Photo: Getty Images
Declan Rice of West Ham United. Photo: Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The presence of an Irish teenager in a Premier League game of substance is a welcome development.

It would be a better story, of course, if Declan Rice was home-produced. That would be a real triumph for the Irish system.

But talent scout Mark O'Toole is doing a good job across the water and he made the early running on getting Rice into the Irish set-up.

He kept in contact with the West Ham youngster outside of international windows and the 18-year-old appears to be happy with the choice.

The sight of Rice belting out the national anthem before U-21 appearances this year reassured those people who presume that every English-born youngster is capable of a last-minute U-turn Jack Grealish style.

Those comparisons can be unfair on the individual and Rice seems to be a different type of character.

But it's clear that the FAI and Martin O'Neill have looked at changing their strategy with promising youths since that circus.

The ship had sailed by the time Grealish was properly invited into the senior set-up.

In the aftermath of his Premier League debut last May, Rice was immediately invited to Fota Island for a meet and greet with the Ireland squad and that was a positive move.

Irish options in the Premier League are an endangered species and while Rice had to take some blame for Man City's winner on Sunday, he didn't look out of place against the best side in English football.

He wants to be a centre-half but he has shone in midfield too. A first cap in March is a must.

Irish Independent

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