Ireland football hero Packie Bonner has said he does not believe Declan Rice is a big loss to the squad.
After months of speculation, Rice (20) turned his back on Ireland yesterday, confirming he would write to Fifa to ask that his international registration be changed to England.
The West Ham player made the decision despite spending his youth career with the Boys in Green and winning three senior caps in friendly games.
However, former ‘keeper Bonner, who played in the golden generation teams that represented Ireland in the World Cups of 1990 and 1994, does not see it as much of a loss.
“Once you’re out, you’re out – that’s it, time to move on,” he said last night. “You have to focus on the people you have.”
Asked if he thought Rice was a big loss to the Ireland squad, he said: “I don’t think so, no.”
Rice’s announcement led to anger among many fans, with some on social media re-posting interviews where he affirmed his commitment to Ireland.
“I’m fully focused on playing for Ireland,” he said last March.
“There’s no decision to be made. If I didn’t want to be playing for Ireland, I wouldn’t be here.”
Rice’s grandparents on his father’s side, Jack and Mar- garet, came from Douglas, before moving to England.
They were overjoyed to see him play at U-16 level before both died within a fortnight of each other in 2016.
Last year, he was given the Ireland international U-19 player of the year award and spoke about how he was doing it for his grandparents and family.
“They’ll be looking down on me very proud. My dad is really, really proud. He wants me to play for Ireland,” Rice said at the time.
In his statement yesterday, Rice said he was a “proud Englishman”, and added that he was proud of his family’s heritage.
Former Ireland hero Kevin Kilbane, who was born to Irish parents and raised in England, questioned Rice’s motives.
“If you’re a ‘proud Englishman’, then why do you play for us in the first place?” he said.
Ireland boss Mick McCarthy confirmed Rice had phoned him to say he had decided to “give it a go” with England.
He said Mark O’Toole, the Ireland scout who saw the potential in Rice and picked him out of obscurity, was disappointed with the news.
READ JOHN ALDRIDGE’S VIEW: SEE SPORT