The Declan Rice award for things that might have been goes to . . .

Often accused of a lack of transparency, the FAI were slapped about the face for being transparent

Declan Rice in action during his Republic of Ireland debut in a friendly international against Turkey in Antalya in March 2018. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Declan Rice in action during his Republic of Ireland debut in a friendly international against Turkey in Antalya in March 2018. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Just as the hurt was beginning to ease and we’d all agreed it was time to move on, up pops a notification about an FAI statement on Declan Rice in your inbox and with your heartbeat on pause before clicking to open it, your fingers, toes and eyelashes crossed . . . had he changed his mind?

The strains of Dolly Parton filled the air:

“Guess I had to go away just to find

What I left behind

You’re the only one . . .

. . . Take me back

To where we started from

This ol’ heart ain’t gonna break your heart again.”

Which would have been a bit like receiving a text from the love of your life informing you that they had reversed their decision to dump you having realised, on mature reflection, that their new squeeze was, in fact, no great shakes.

But there was to be no reprieve.

As Mick McCarthy put it on the Late Late Show last Friday, “he was obviously waiting for a prettier date, I only got a five out of 10, he was waiting for a Victoria’s Secret model to come along”.

And Declan Rice is sticking with his Victoria’s Secret model, aka Gareth Southgate, who he will believe to be the greatest of shakes ever if, as expected, he names him in his England squad on Wednesday for their forthcoming games against whoever.

The press release, as it proved, simply informed us that the Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland (SWAI) had voted the English fella our Young Irish Player of the Year for 2018 for his performances in his three senior friendly appearances.

The reaction on anti-social media was, let’s just say, harsh.

“I suppose Jack Grealish is our Senior Player of the Year?”

“Sounds like an episode of Fr Ted.”

“I also heard Queen Elizabeth has been tipped to win the Rose of Tralee.”

But the FAI, oft accused of a lack of transparency, were being slapped about the face for being transparent, telling us that the SWAI judges deemed Rice to be our best young senior international in 2018, which – set aside your hurt – he was.

In a year that was so calamitous for our national team it even allowed some reprobates to claim we are now living in rugby country, Rice was the only flicker of light in an ocean of darkness, the lights going entirely out in our last four fixtures during which we amassed zero goals.

“This award maintains the integrity of the voting process,” the statement continued, before concluding with possibly the most unnecessary final sentence in the history of final press release sentences: “Declan Rice will not be in Dublin for the ‘3’ FAI International Awards ceremony.”

If he opted to turn up, accompanied by Southgate, both dressed as bulldogs, chanting ‘shove yer backstop up yer arse’, that wouldn’t have been ideal, so best, maybe, he accepts his trophy in absentia. Kind of like how Queen Elizabeth should opt for Skype to have her Tralee Dome chat with Dáithí.

On the whole, these awards wouldn’t have you tingling. They are, usually, an annual reminder of our most glorious footballing moments from the year before, but after a 12-month spell during which our lads won a single game out of nine and failed to register a goal in six, not a net wrinkled in their last four games, the MC next should be paid a Euromillions-winning figure.

The battle for goal of the year has had, for the first time, to be extended to include goals from Irish teams beyond our senior lads, them having managed just the four in the entire calendar year – take a bow, Graham Burke, Alan Judge, Shaun Williams and Aiden O’Brien. Especially Williams, the scorer of Ireland’s sole competitive goal in a 2018 game . . . in which we were mullered 4-1 by Wales.  

Challenging times. As evidenced by Ryan Tubridy granting everyone in the Late Late audience a ticket for the March 26th home game against Georgia, a sizeable section of them greeting the gift like they might do a letter from the Revenue.

Which is how Declan’s Young Player of the Year award was, largely, received too. Him breaking our ol’ hearts again with his philandering with a Victoria’s Secret model. In fairness, a prettier date. Good luck to the fella.

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