Kenny: Rice and Grealish should still be Ireland players
Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny believes that players like Jack Grealish and Declan Rice would still be playing for Ireland if they had have had a better relationship with the senior manager.
Aston Villa's Grealish and West Ham United's Rice both played their underage football for Ireland before leaving the Boys In Green in anticipation of an England call-up.
Grealish has yet to receive a call from the Three Lions, while Rice made his international switch earlier to England earlier this year after playing three senior caps for the Irish national team, and Kenny believes that a more streamlined relationship between the senior management team and the underage managers would lead to a higher retention of foreign internationals.
“I know this is subjective and slightly controversial but if there was a better relationship at the time between Under-15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and senior managers, you would feel that both Jack Grealish and Declan Rice would definitely be playing for Ireland now because they would have been fast-tracked earlier and into the first-team,” Kenny said on Eamon Dunphy’s The Stand podcast.
“Jack Grealish played gaelic for Warwickshire all the way up in England. He did feel a sense of Irishness. [They should have been integrated] much earlier. Jack Grealish is an outstanding player, you wouldn’t have had to be a genius to work that out.”
Kenny will succeed current senior manager Mick McCarthy after the Euro 2020 campaign and he added that he has no interest in trying to convince foreign internationals of their Irishness.
“We don’t need to try and convince people they’re Irish. We’re not interested in that. That’s no good to us. We need people that it means everything to them.
"I understand that there is the concept of dual nationality and that can be quite complex.
“People feel English and Irish or Nigerian and Irish or whatever it is. I understand that. We can’t be naive, it’s not always black or white.”
New Celtic midfielder Luca Connell is the latest Ireland underage international that may be tempted by a switch to England in the future but Ireland assistant manager Robbie Keane insisted last month that that won't follow Rice and defect.
“You know what, I don’t even want headlines, I don’t care, he’s gone. Adios, see you later. I’m genuinely not interested," Keane said of Rice.
“If he doesn’t want to play for us, no problem, we’ll get players who want to play for us. He’s an English player.
“I don’t know Declan Rice. I never met him, apart from when I met him with Mick.
“But I was in camp with Luca Connell for 10 days. You get a feel for people. I guarantee you 100% he’s desperate to play for Ireland.”