Football

O'Neill Has No Time For Suggestion He Could Have Tied Down Declan Rice

O'Neill Has No Time For Suggestion He Could Have Tied Down Declan Rice

Martin O'Neill had no time for the idea that he could have capped Declan Rice in a World Cup qualifier against Moldova last year, ensuring that the young West Ham player's international allegiance would be permanently tied to Ireland.

Rice made his Ireland debut in a friendly against Turkey in March, five months after the game against Moldova. He would go on to make two more appearances against in subsequent friendlies against France and USA before he began to have doubts regarding playing for Ireland. Had Rice played in a competitive international, such as that game against Moldova, the option of switching international allegiance would not have been available to him.

"I find it incredible to think that I should be thinking about that during a game where we are fighting for our lives and trying to win at home," said O'Neill, quoted by RTÉ ahead of this evening's final Nations League game against Denmark.

At that stage in his career, Rice had made seven appearances for West Ham, his debut having come at the end of the 2016/17 season.

"I wouldn't really have thought through where Declan Rice was in that particular scheme." continued O'Neill.

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I don't know whether he was playing regularly for West Ham at the time - I doubt it.

We brought him in and he trained with us in the summer time and enjoyed it immensely. He was playing games in friendly matches - but I don't know whether that was the first thing on my mind versus Moldova.

To think about putting him on for a couple of minutes just to cap him is crazy, crazy thinking that you should have your mindset on that.

Secondly - and probably as important - the player would know, so I would say if Declan had thoughts about who he was going to play for, I think that would have reared its head at that particular time.

To have that criticism directed at you is lunacy, real lunacy. I think that the whole situation is absolutely ludicrous.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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