Fenlon: Declan Rice saga further highlights domestic deficiencies

And so nearly eight weeks on from where a decision was “imminent”, Declan Rice finally announced that he has switched his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England.

It’s time to move on. Yes, there will be jokes about grains of rice and potatoes, but once such silliness has stopped, the page should be turned. No going back. Most football people on this side of the Irish Sea will no doubt wish Rice well in his future career.

Speaking on 2fm’s Game On, Pat Fenlon was of such of view, but lamented the fact that the saga was allowed to drag on.

“I think if Mick McCarthy had been manager of Ireland for the games last year, the whole situation would not have arisen.

“It wouldn’t have dragged on for as long.

“Mick, I think would have named him in the squad. If Rice, didn’t turn up, well then you could say ‘go on and play for England’.

“The decision would have been made. We let the saga drag on. I don’t blame Declan Rice. He was caught in an awkward situation.”

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What’s more of interest to Fenlon is the current state of the game in Ireland. He paints a somewhat pessimistic picture and talks about “a blockage in how we are going to develop our player.”

He continued: “We don’t have the right system in place. It’s harder and harder for our young players to make that breakthrough in England.

“We don’t have a culture for football in this country, we don’t have an industry for football in this country.  

“Ideally, there should be an environment where young players can stay at home, get educated. If a kid is good enough to play in the Premier League at the highest level, he will get there.  

“We are sending players away to clubs in League One and League Two and they are back within a short period of time with all their dreams dashed.

“Well run academies requires a huge investment. At the moment, League of Ireland clubs have no interest in developing young players, not in the same way the Schoolboy Leagues did.”