"He was talking about Jack Grealish as if he was some heir to Glenn Whelan" 11 months ago

"He was talking about Jack Grealish as if he was some heir to Glenn Whelan"

Conor Hourihane, Declan Rice, Jack Grealish.

Christ. It's depressing, I know. It's pointless, I know that more. But that's a midfield that could be competing at the top.

Rice and Grealish are English and given the choice, they would've always chosen to play for England but, crucially, they weren't always given the choice and, more importantly than that, they're some way Irish too. If you moved to London tomorrow, settled down and started a family, you'd probably hope your children would retain some of the Irishness that made you who you are. It's an old debate but they can be English and they can be Irish.

What's fresh this week though is the gut-wrench of 'how the f**k did this happen?' Stephen Kenny's comments on the Rice and Grealish matter renew the sense that Ireland messed it up and missed out on serious talents that they could've gotten if Martin O'Neill had not waited so long to pursue them for the senior team.

They were Ireland products who could've played for Ireland earlier in their careers - and could've been glad to - and they were talents who were obviously good enough to play for them too.

On Friday's The Football Spin episode, Paddy McKenna asked Dion Fanning to clarify if he really felt that Martin O'Neill didn't spot the talent of Rice and Grealish.

The 15 seconds that follow are gold.

Listen at 15:51 as Fanning responds with raw emotion.

Because people see it differently. They point out that O'Neill tried to recruit the two of them (and he did, and he played Rice three times) but Stephen Kenny's argument is that they should've been recruited younger because, of course, they were good enough.

It's not even about qualifying them and trapping them. It's about recognising players that the future can be built around.

PADDY: Are you saying that Martin O'Neill didn't spot the talent?

DION: He clearly didn't spot the talent! He clearly didn't spot the talent! Because he was talking about Jack Grealish as if he was some heir to Glenn Whelan in 2015. He didn't spot it. He didn't spot it until we all watched the FA Cup semi-final and he destroyed Liverpool. And then he spotted it.

If you take the example of Ethan Ampadou for a second and compare. Under the O'Neill model, he would not have played for Ireland because he hadn't yet broken into the Chelsea first team. As an underage talent, the pattern shows that he would've been told he had to prove himself without Ireland deciding for themselves if they could get use out of him.

So he had never played for Chelsea by the time he was destroying Ireland in midfield for Wales. And yet Ireland - in that framework - would've waited for another manager to play him in the Premier League before he was deemed worthy of being brought in.

"It's a strange combination," Fanning said.

"It's a very Irish thing in some ways, waiting for the external validation of someone to come along and say, 'oh yeah, he's good enough'. Rather than just deciding he is good enough."

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