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Ireland boss expresses sympathy for Declan Rice amid international tug-of-war

‘There was a real issue with his contract [at West Ham] and they’ve got that sorted out now.’

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND manager Mick McCarthy feels a decision on Declan Rice’s international allegiance is closer now that the youngster has resolved his club future.

After a protracted serious of negotiations at West Ham United, Rice penned a new contract last week which will tie him to the Premier League outfit until 2024.

Southampton v West Ham United - Premier League - St Mary's Rice celebrates a West Ham goal in their recent win over Southampton. Source: Andrew Matthews

With that issue put to bed, the 19-year-old can now address his future in the international game. Rice excelled during three friendly appearances for Ireland in 2018, but England manager Gareth Southgate has since expressed his interest in the London-born player, who’s comfortable as a holding midfielder or in the centre of defence.

Rice, who qualifies to represent the Boys in Green via his grandparents from Cork, spoke to Mick McCarthy last month about the prospect of committing to Ireland. He remains free to switch his allegiance until he has played in a competitive senior international fixture.

Having described the meeting with Rice and his father as positive, McCarthy told TalkSport last night that he sympathises with a player who recently made his 50th appearance for West Ham’s first-team ahead of his 20th birthday later this month. 

“There’s a lot going on for the young man,” he said. “We say, ‘oh, they should be able to make their minds up’, but he’s a young fella and he’s only just got into the West Ham team.

“I remember saying when I was doing some stuff with Ireland, ‘look, let him get into the West Ham team, let him settle, let him be a first-team player and then he’ll make his mind up’. I’m still of the same opinion.

“If he wants to play for me, I’ll be delighted and I’ll be picking him, but I’ve left it with him. I can’t do anymore. It’s not my job to decide whether he plays for the Republic of Ireland.

Euro 2020 European Qualifier Draw - Convention Centre Dublin Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Source: Brian Lawless

“There was a real issue with his contract [at West Ham] and they’ve got that sorted out now, so I guess he’s got his head clear on that and he can make his mind up.”

McCarthy has given Rice a deadline of March to make a decision. Ireland begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign away to Gibraltar on 23 March, before hosting Georgia three days later.

McCarthy added: “My job is to pick him if he decides to play for us, and I hope he does because he’s an excellent player. He’s a player I can build a team around.”

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Paul Dollery

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