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Stephen Kenny: 'Rice and Grealish should still be playing for Ireland'

The former Dundalk manager was speaking on Eamon Dunphy’s The Stand podcast.

Former Ireland international, Declan Rice.
Former Ireland international, Declan Rice.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND U21 BOSS Stephen Kenny says a more coordinated approach to our underage structures at international level would have prevented the loss of talents like Jack Grealish and Declan Rice.

Speaking on Eamon Dunphy’s The Stand podcast, the former Dundalk manager took aim at a previous the lack of cohesion between underage teams and management, citing this as one of the reasons Ireland have allowed outstanding talent leave in the past.

Rice, most notably, exited the Irish set-up in February to switch allegiance to England, despite having earned three senior international caps under Martin O’Neill in 2018.

The 20-year-old was subject of much scorn following the move, but Kenny made the point that had a uniformed approach to talent spotting been followed within the Irish talent system, players would move through the system to senior level at a quicker rate.

“I know this is subjective and slightly controversial but if there was a better relationship at the time between Under-15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and senior managers, you would feel that both Jack Grealish and Declan Rice would definitely be playing for Ireland now because they would have been fast-tracked earlier and into the first-team,” he said.

“Jack Grealish played gaelic [sic] for Warwickshire all the way up in England. He did feel a sense of Irishness.

[They should have been integrated] much earlier. Jack Grealish is an outstanding player, you wouldn’t have had to be a genius to work that out.”

Declan Rice celebrates Graham Burke's goal Declan Rice picked up three caps in three friendlies for Ireland before switching his allegiance to England. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Asked originally whether Ireland should be “scouring” the world looking for talent with the eligibility to play for the national team, he said: “We don’t need to try and convince people they’re Irish.

“We’re not interested in that. That’s no good to us. We need people that it means everything to them.

I understand that there is the concept of dual nationality and that can be quite complex.

“People feel English and Irish or Nigerian and Irish or whatever it is. I understand that. We can’t be naive, it’s not always black or white.”

He added: “[We want] anyone who’s Irish and it’s important in their life to play for Ireland. It has to be paramount playing for Ireland [...] it has to be very important to them.”

As U21 manager, Kenny has extended his connections to Tom Mohan’s U19 side, among others, and explained how he was part of forming another underage team that featured the best of the younger levels as opposition for his U21 side.

Citing his experience working with the the best of Ireland’s young talent, Kenny reiterated how important it was to young players to pull on a green shirt.

“They’re devastated when they get left out,” he said. “I see it everyday. They’re hungry to learn about the sports science.

They want to know how to get better. There’s a determination to make themselves better.”

You can listen to the full discussion below. The topic starts around the 25 minute mark.

Source: The Stand/SoundCloud

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