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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 21 January 2021
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'You always dream of having a good start': Debutant Rice a bright spark for Ireland

Martin O’Neill and Seamus Coleman were impressed with the West Ham youngster.

ON AN OTHERWISE disappointing night for Martin O’Neill’s new-look Ireland, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice provided the one source of comfort as he produced an assured display on debut.

Declan Rice and David Meyler dejected Rice impressed on his senior international debut. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 19-year-old was one of three players handed their first caps during the 1-0 defeat to Turkey, and showed why he has featured regularly for West Ham in the Premier League this season.

A savvy footballer in the middle of the park, Rice is comfortable in possession, reads the game well and while he provides a composed presence in front of the back four, also possesses a creative ability.

Rice, who started in the back three of O’Neill’s altered 3-5-2 formation before moving into midfield during the second period, earned the man of the match award for his encouraging performance.

“You always dream of having a good start,” he told RTÉ afterwards. “Only being 19 years old and it being my debut, in a great venue against a great team, I was really looking forward to it. To get man of the match is just the icing on the cake.

“It’s always special to get 90 minutes with the senior team, the result was disappointing but on a personal level I was happy to go out there and prove a point and play well.”

O’Neill was impressed with Rice: “That was pretty impressive for a 19-year-old.”

While now capped for Ireland, there is still the option for the London native to represent the country of his birth until he plays a competitive game but O’Neill is confident the teenager is committed to the Boys in Green.

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“His father was there tonight so that’s good news,” the Ireland manager added. “He loves playing for us and that sort of performance we’ll obviously want him.”

The largely nondescript friendly also marked the return of Seamus Coleman for his first appearance in green since his horror leg break against Wales 12 months ago.

“We’re disappointed to have lost but I thought Declan was brilliant,” the Everton captain added.

“He wasn’t just brilliant today, but he’s been brilliant all week in training. He’s a great lad, desperate to do well and a few of us could have taken a leaf out of his book today and that’s the truth.

“It’s great to be back, everyone knows what it means to me to play for Ireland. Unfortunately we didn’t win so it’s disappointing but on a personal level it’s glad to end that journey.”
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