Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy dangles the carrot of the midfield holding role for Declan Rice
REPUBLIC of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy has told Declan Rice he would play him in the holding midfield role rather than as a central defender as the West Ham player continues to stall on his international future.
The London-born 19-year-old is still being tracked by England boss Gareth Southgate following his decision to step away from the international arena at the start of this season having played three friendly games for the Republic.
Speaking ahead of last night's Soccer Writers Awards in Dublin, McCarthy admitted he still didn't know where Rice's international intentions lay after he and Robbie Keane, his assistant, met with Rice, his dad and brother at the beginning of last month.
“I thought it was [a] positive [meeting] at the time, there were no negative vibes,” said McCarthy.
“He was more concerned at the time with getting his [new] contract sorted. That was the big issue.
“He wanted to sort out his future at West Ham. He has done that now; he did say that once it was sorted he would make a decision sooner than later. I can't make his mind up.”
Rice, who has been linked to a move to Man City, had indicated he would make a decision before the end of 2018, but it has now dragged into the new year and Ireland's Euro 2020 qualification campaign begins in March against Gibraltar and Georgia.
McCarthy revealed: “I spoke to Gareth, he sees him as a centre back, I thought because he's not playing there at the moment he wouldn't be there in front of the ones already in there, plus he's not been in their youth system and come through like he has with ours....
“I want him playing in the position he is now at West Ham, for now and see where he develops. I spoke to him and his Dad for a long time. I spoke to his Dad prior to that. I think he saw himself initially as a centre half but then he is enjoying midfield.”
McCarthy acknowledged that England's hopes of qualifying for major tournaments are far greater than the Republic's, but hopes ultimately emotion will play a decisive part in Rice's thinking.
“If England think that they can guarantee he'll play in all of those competitions with them…
“Well, pretty much over the course of his life-time, my life-time [England have qualified more regularly than Ireland]. It's a tough to argue against. If it's an emotional argument, that you want to play for Ireland, your family are from there [Cork] then it's a bit easier.”
After signing a new deal with the Hammers, Rice said: “With regard to my international future, myself, my dad and my brother [Connor] have talked with Ireland coach Mick McCarthy and I've also spoken to Gareth Southgate.
“They've both said that whenever I'm ready, it's up to me to make a decision. There was so much going on earlier in the season but now most of that has been sorted, so I will make a decision soon.
“As for now, I want to play at the top level throughout my career. I want to win trophies, even the Champions League. You have to be ambitious.”
Meanwhile, newly-appointed Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny was named SSE Airtricity/SWAI Personality of the Year for 2018 at the annual awards ceremony last night.
The 47-year-old masterminded an SSE Airtricity League Premier Division and Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup double as his parting gift to Dundalk before ending a hugely-successful six-year spell at Oriel Park to take up his latest role with the FAI.
He saw off two of his former players in Lilywhites pair Chris Shields (runner-up) and Pat Hoban (third) to claim the prize for the third time at Dublin's Conrad Hotel, having previously won it in 2014 and 2016.
Goalkeeper of the Year went to Shane Supple, who was a key player for Bohemians last season and was forced into retirement recently with a hip injury.