Declan Rice’s decision to switch international allegiance to England “went down like a lead balloon”, according to former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.
The West Ham midfielder made the change in 2019. Born and raised in England, Rice qualified to play for Ireland through his grandparents and made three senior appearances under Martin O’Neill, all in friendly games.
Rice was named Irish Player of the Year at under-17 and under-19 level, and was Irish Young Player of the Year in 2019 – after switching to England. He made his debut against the Czech Republic in March 2019 and now has seven international caps for England to his name.
“It went down like a lead balloon because he’d played three games, I think, and he’d scored and I think he kissed the jersey!” McCarthy told Sky Sports. “Players have a choice over which [country] they play for now.
“There’s another discussion: if you’ve played once, if it’s a friendly game at full international, should that be you down as an Irish player, an English player or a Scottish player, whoever it might be? I think it should, once you’ve played in the national team.
“But if you have got a choice, which he had, he played his games, he got in the West Ham team, he started flying…”
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McCarthy himself played 57 times for the Republic of Ireland despite being born in Barnsley, qualifying through his Irish father. He admitted he was disappointed with his own reaction when he was informed of Rice’s decision to go with the country of his birth.
“I went to see him and his dad and I have to be honest, I didn’t say it publicly at the time, I didn’t think he was going to come with us,” he added. “I think he was erring on the side of playing with England.
“I said to him at the time, I was pretty curt with him on the phone and I had to ring him back and say, ‘Look, I’m sorry, I wish you well, I hope you have a good career with England and West Ham, good look to you’. Because it’s his choice. He had never played for me, it was just that I was so disappointed that we were losing such a good player.”