Denmark vs Republic of Ireland - O'Neill angrily defends his handling of Rice situation

Posted Monday, November 19, 2018 by PA

Denmark vs Republic of Ireland - O'Neill angrily defends his handling of Rice situation

Martin O’Neill has dismissed as “lunacy” suggestions he should have capped teenager Declan Rice in a World Cup qualifier against Moldova to tie him to the Republic of Ireland.

On the eve of Monday night’s final Nations League qualifier against Denmark in Aarhus, O’Neill once again found himself having to defend his handling of the West Ham defender, who is mulling over whether to opt for Ireland or England.

He said: “I find it incredible to think that I should be thinking about that during a game where we are fighting for our lives and trying to win at home.

“I wouldn’t really have thought through where Declan Rice was in that particular scheme. I don’t know whether he was playing regularly for West Ham at the time – I doubt it.

“To think about putting him on for a couple of minutes just to cap him is crazy, crazy thinking that you should have your mindset on that.

“Secondly – and probably as important – the player would know, so I would say if Declan had thoughts about who he was going to play for, I think that would have reared its head at that particular time.

“To have that criticism directed at you is lunacy, real lunacy. I think that whole situation is absolutely ludicrous.”

Southampton striker Michael Obafemi could now make his first senior appearance for his country against Denmark after the 18-year-old committed himself to the Republic, though O’Neill added: “He’d be the first one to say he’s a long way to go.”

Ireland desperately need a lift after a poor run of form which has seen them win only once in their last 10 games, eight of them this calendar year, and suffer relegation to Nations League C.

But Denmark boss Age Hareide has told former Manchester City and Norwich team-mate O’Neill to remember the good times.

The Norwegian, who once went eight games without a win in charge of his native country, said: “Sometimes you get into series of bad results and it’s hard to get out.

“When you are a coach, you desperately want to change it to get it the right way. But if you have a bad run, you have to think of the days you had a good run and you have to try to do things you did when things went the right way.

“I know he is working very, very hard to try to change the luck and that’s why we have to be on our tiptoes tomorrow.”

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