Mick McCarthy says that Declan Rice's decision to switch allegiance to England came as “no surprise” to him.
This despite the Ireland manager having had what at the time was described as a positive meeting with the player in December, following which McCarthy had talked about his ambition to build a team around the West Ham star.
"I was talking at that level because I had a small hope he was actually going to stay with us,” McCarthy said today. “But I'd known for two months that he wasn't joining us - all I needed was it confirming. You might say 'How did I know that?' I just got a feeling, having met and spoken to him. All he had to do was say 'yeah, I'm staying with you guys, I'm playing'.
“Once he hadn't done that I was very doubtful but I was not going to say that, I wasn't going to put words in his mouth and I wasn't going to leave it open for anyone to say I had driven him away because I hadn't, that's for sure. So I just continued to wait for an answer. But when he told me, I'd known for a couple of months.”
Admitting that he could only speculate on why it took so long for Rice to announce his decision, McCarthy said: "I think he didn't want to tell anyone, he needed to make his mind up I guess. Do you know what? I've no idea. It could have been 'I'll see how I continue going, I'll see how I play for West Ham, I'll see if I stay in the team, I'll see how much interest there is within England'. I'm only guessing at that, I'm putting myself in his shoes.
“All I know is if he wanted to play for Ireland and he'd made his decision, it was an easy decision because he'd had three caps. He'd other people in his family who wanted him to continue to play for Ireland so maybe that made it a bit more difficult. In my own mind, I never thought he was coming with us and I kept getting little vibes from different clubs and players and stuff that had been talked about so it was no surprise. I just wanted the decision and then I could stop talking about him.”
Speaking at the launch of the FAI's new 'Club Ireland' ticket scheme at the Aviva, McCarthy said: “I think it’s a blow for Ireland going forward in terms of longevity, (not having) a player like that who has played very well in the Premier league. But he’s not with us.The quotes from him were that he wanted to win things and I guess he's looking at the England team and how well they did at the World Cup, that he wants to be part of that. That's what he wants to do and good luck to him. (But) he might just be sweating seeing (Sean) Longstaff playing at Newcastle, I have to tell you, because there's going to be a few coming through for England.”
For his own part, the Ireland manager added: “I want players who want to play for us, as simple as that.”