In the closing minutes of West Ham United’s final Premier League match of the season, Declan Rice was substituted in to keep hold of a 2-1 lead over Burnley. The recently turned 18 year old did not disappoint in his debut. Rice was steady on the ball and even made a few stiff tackles. In the short minutes he was on the pitch, you could feel a sense of excitement, even at Turf Moor.
Apparently, that excitement was not lost on Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill. O’Neill is preparing a three day camp for his Irish players to sure up the roster and iron out details. The Republic of Ireland will meet Mexico in the United States in a friendly on June 1st, as well as Uruguay on the 4th, before playing their vital World Cup qualifying match against Austria on June 11th.
Congratulations to 18 year old Declan Rice who made his first team debut today. pic.twitter.com/bdAd3EdrGx— WestHamFCLive (@WestHamFCLive) May 21, 2017
Declan will have the opportunity to learn from some of Ireland’s best in veterans such as West Hoolihan and Robbie Brady. Rice qualifies with Ireland through his grandparents, with Rice himself being born in the Republic.
The news hasn’t come as a major shock to anyone who has been following Ireland’s youth football program. Declan has been featured many times playing for both the U21s and the U17s for the green and orange.
Slaven Bilic commented on Declan’s abilities last week by saying:
“Declan is very good for his age. He has a bright future in him and it’s all down to him. He played a couple of games in the pre-season when we went to the States and we were missing a few players. I can see him being a really good player’
There are many Hammer fans who see Declan as one of a handful of players who could potentially see plenty of first team action next year. Given the board’s current sentiment on playing the Hammer youth, that’s a hard future to envision. If Declan can prove himself on the world stage, as well as preseason, perhaps it will be enough to change the minds of those behind the desk.
And just for fun, skip to 3:30 for Hoolihan to Brady. Still get chills!