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Declan Rice pictured playing for Ireland in 2018.
Declan Rice pictured playing for Ireland in 2018.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

'He should never have been in that position in the first place'

Daryl Horgan believes the rules that allowed Declan Rice to switch international allegiance are too lax.
Nov 10th 2020, 1:00 PM 19,770 22

DARYL HORGAN BELIEVES the rules that allowed Declan Rice to switch allegiance from Ireland to England are too lax.

The West Ham star made three appearances for the Irish senior team in 2018.

However, the fact that Rice hadn’t been capped in a competitive game allowed him to switch allegiance to England the following year.

Horgan was part of the squad when Rice was with the Boys in Green and says he was disappointed when the talented youngster — who he could potentially come up against in Thursday’s international friendly — opted to pledge his future to the Three Lions.

We all know how good a player he is. He’s a very talented guy. It’s one of them, he should never have been in that position in the first place. There should be stricter rules so that if you play a friendly, then that’s that.

“But the position presented itself, he was born in England, has lived in England all his life. I can understand it. It’s disappointing from our point of view, because he’s a very, very good player.

“I wouldn’t hold it against him. He’s a young guy and he probably felt the option would never be there [again], so it presented itself, and he made the decision. And he’s having a great career and I’m sure he’ll have a great career for the foreseeable future.”

Asked whether the pair still stay in touch, Horgan added: “To be honest, we only really chatted on international duty. We were only in one or two squads together, a couple of those friendlies towards the summer when he made his decision. So I wouldn’t know him that well. I don’t know how much contact he’s kept up with anyone [in the Ireland squad] to be honest with you.”

Meanwhile, Irish team-mate Aaron Connolly was less interested in discussing the Rice saga: “Nothing to do with me really, it’s not my career,” he said. “Whatever he chose is up to him. I didn’t really take much interest in it.”

On the game itself, Horgan said he was hoping to play in Wembley for the first time in his career.

“When you’re coming through, there are a few places you want to play. Your own international stadium, the club you follow when you’re younger. And Wembley is always one, it’s up there with your Bernabéus and Nou Camps. To get the opportunity to play there would be brilliant. And an Ireland-v-England game would be unreal.”

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The Galway native has generally been on the periphery of the international team since earning a first cap under Martin O’Neill. After two appearances in 2017 and four in 2018, he didn’t line out at all for his country last year, and might have suspected his international career was over.

Nonetheless, a number of injuries and Covid-related absences meant he was recalled for last month’s Nations League fixtures by Stephen Kenny, who previously worked with Horgan at Dundalk.

The 28-year-old impressed sufficiently to retain his place for the upcoming matches and is delighted to be back in the fold.

I was probably thinking, you know, I’d be very, very lucky to get an opportunity to get back in, but the opportunity presented itself and thankfully, I’ve done enough in the manager’s eyes to stay in for another trip.

“So it’s good to be back in this week and I’ll obviously be trying to do as well as I can in training and thinking, hopefully there’s an opportunity to play and then go from there.”

On his familiarity with Kenny, Horgan added: “It’s very good for me, because I know what he’s about, what he likes and, you know, the way he is and the way he wants football to be played. But he’s just looking for the best players that are available to him.

“If I wasn’t playing well, he was never going to pick me, because he’s got quite a lot of depth of talent in that position, there are a lot of good players in the squad and around the squad. First and foremost, I’d have to play well to even get close to it, but the fact that we’ve worked [together] before I’m sure can’t hurt.”

And as for Ireland’s well-documented problems in front of goal, Horgan believes it is only a matter of time before they start enjoying better fortune.

“The way we have started to change has been good. You know there’s a lot more ball retention, we’re getting into good areas and creating opportunities.

“Sometimes the hardest thing is football is just sticking the ball in the back of the net, but then if we get one deflection off someone’s arse that goes in, everything’s fantastic and rosy again.”

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Paul Fennessy

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