Martin O’Neill still keeping Declan Rice flame flickering
There is no place for West Ham player in latest squad which includes Robbie Brady
Declan Rice of West Ham United celebrates their win over Burnely. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Martin O’Neill has still not given up hope that young West Ham star Declan Rice will eventually declare for the Republic of Ireland.
The 19-year-old has not been included in a 36-man provisional squad for the friendly against Northern Ireland and the Nations League trip to Denmark later this month.
There are reports he will opt to play for England instead after being persuaded that is where his future lies by Gareth Southgate and his staff.
However O’Neill, who has handed Rice three caps in friendly games, is still hopeful he will get the answer he wants from the English-born player, who qualifies for Ireland through his father’s side of the family.
Asked about the suggestion that the player has made his decision, O’Neill told a press conference in Dublin: “That may well be the case, I don’t know. I’m in contact with the family and they said they would let us know.
“There was a story last week and a couple of weeks before that. There was a story broken that was without foundation.
“The player will have the decision. I’m not waiting every single moment. I would hope that he would come and play for us — that would be great, for the next 10 or 12 years, for him.
“But he’s got things to consider and whatever decision he comes up with, I will abide with.”
If Rice’s name was conspicuous by its absence when O’Neill revealed his selection, those of Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady, two of the stars of the Republic’s Euro 2016 finals campaign, did appear on the list following their respective recoveries from injury.
Everton full-back Coleman missed last month’s Nations League double-header against Denmark and Wales with a stress fracture in his foot, while Burnley midfielder Brady is two games into his comeback from a serious knee injury which sidelined him for almost 11 months.
However, defender Stephen Ward and striker Jonathan Walters will miss out once again due to respective knee and Achilles problems.
There is also a place for 34-year-old Aston Villa midfielder Glenn Whelan, who will captain the team against Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on November 15 in what is likely to be his 85th and last senior appearance for his country as he will not travel to Denmark.
O’Neill has included four new faces in his provisional party, with Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Under-21 internationals Jimmy Dunne and Ryan Manning and 18-year-old Southampton striker Michael Obafemi all hoping to make the cut.
Ireland head into the two games having won only once in nine outings in all competitions and knowing they will be relegated from Nations League B, Group 4 before they arrive in Aarhus if Denmark return from Wales with anything to show for their efforts.
A failure to secure a victory from the five competitive games since their side won a World Cup qualifier in Cardiff in October last year has left a question mark over O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane, who have been at the helm for five years.
However, the manager remains confident he can guide the nation to the Euro 2020 finals.
Republic of Ireland Provisional Squad
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Colin Doyle (Hearts), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Sean McDermott (Kristiansund BK).
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie (Fulham), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Richard Keogh (Derby County), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Kevin Long (Burnley), Jimmy Dunne (Hearts*), John Egan, Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers), Greg Cunningham (Cardiff City).
Midfielders: Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Harry Arter (Cardiff City*), Conor Hourihane, Glenn Whelan (Aston Villa), David Meyler (Reading), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Shaun Williams (Millwall), Richie Towell, Ryan Manning (Rotherham United*), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (Stoke City).
Forwards: Shane Long, Michael Obafemi (Southampton), Scott Hogan (Aston Villa), Sean Maguire, Callum Robinson (Preston North End), Aiden O’Brien (Millwall), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth).