Mick McCarthy says he would have capped Declan Rice and Jack Grealish for Ireland
"We should have played them before we did."
McCarthy didn't directly refer to O'Neill but said that it is 'sad' that neither player were capped in competitive matches for Ireland before switching allegiance to England, the country of their birth.
Both players have become members of Gareth Southgate's England team which reached the final of Euro 2020 and the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup. The pair have played a combined 80 times for the Three Lions.
McCarthy says Rice and Grealish should have played in competitive matches for Ireland.
By the time McCarthy had replaced O'Neill in the job a year later, Rice had decided to represent England instead.
Grealish opted to represent the country of his birth in 2015 after rejecting the chance to play for Ireland at senior level under O'Neill.
Ireland's loss has become England's gain and the players are now ever-present under Southgate.
McCarthy has been speaking about Ireland losing out on both players.
"I went to meet him and he’s such a lovely guy. Really sad that… he’d obviously made that decision then or was in the process of making that decision.
"Looking at him now, he’s made his decision, it’s the right decision for him. he’s thriving on it. The same with Jack Grealish."
McCarthy went on to say that Ireland should have capped both players before when they were in the Irish system and available for selection.
The former Boys in Green captain and manager didn't mention his predecessor by name, but O'Neill was the manager when both players were in the Irish system before they switched allegiance to England.
McCarthy: It is sad that Ireland didn't tie down Grealish and Rice.
"We should have played them before we did," McCarthy said.
"You can play more games now (and still switched allegiance). It used to be one game, if you played one competitive game, then you were deemed to be of that nationality.
"And of course, we never picked Jack or Declan to play in one of them, which is sad. We’d be a much better team if those two were with us."
O'Neill has said that he felt that it would have been 'wrong' to 'convince' Rice or Grealish to play for Ireland, and he didn't feel comfortable having to 'coerce' players into representing the Boys in Green.
"It’s as simple as this: Declan Rice wanted to play for England," the former Ireland manager said on talkSPORT last year.
"He’s born in England, it really is as simple as that.
"You cannot just bring them into an international game, a competitive game, where the minute they play a competitive match for the country that’s them announcing they’re going to be playing for them."
McCarthy, however, has said that he has capped footballers to ensure they played for Ireland during his two stints as Ireland manager.
The former Ireland captain did not name the players in question but stated that most ended up being 'delighted' to have represented the Boys in Green.
"You make decisions on the game you are playing. I’d have to say I have given people caps, yes I have," he said.
"I’ve put them on to make sure they are going to play for us. I have done it - I’m not going to lie about that.
"Some of them will be delighted that I did because they’ve gone on to have good careers."
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