Ireland assistant manager Robbie Keane has insisted that talented midfielder Luca Connell will not become another Declan Rice despite reported interest from England in persuading him to play for the Three Lions.
Connell has represented Ireland since U17 level and was recently called into the senior squad by Mick McCarthy for the qualifiers against Denmark and Gibraltar but was forced to withdraw through injury.
The 18-year old was born in Liverpool but is eligible to play for Ireland thanks to his grandparents who are from Dublin, with England recently sniffing around him following Connell’s impressive season with Bolton Wanderers in the Championship.
Speaking to the media last week in quotes reported by The Irish Mirror, Keane spoke of his brief experience working with Connell explaining that he is sure the midfielder wants to play for Ireland as opposed to defecting to England.
“Great lad. In Portugal, I got a ball and there’s a big goal over there and a small goal facing that goal.
“I said ‘watch this, I’m going to hit that post and it’ll go straight into the goal and he said ‘no chance’. I went ‘bang’ – it hit the bar and went into the goal.
“Then the little f****r did it as well, straight after. I thought ‘he’s got a chance, this lad’. He’s a lovely lad as well.
“And I’m telling you right now, he’ll play for us. He loves it here. He enjoyed being here. He was buzzing in Portugal. He was playing well, enjoying it.”
The situation so far has bore a slight resemblance to the Declan Rice dilemma which became a huge saga at the beginning of the year with Ireland and England involved in an international tug of war for the West Ham man’s services.
England eventually won out, but Keane explained that Rice is a player Ireland must now forget about and that he is fully confident Connell will not follow in his footsteps.
“You know what, I don’t even want headlines, I don’t care, he’s gone. Adios, see you later. I’m genuinely not interested.
“If he doesn’t want to play for us, no problem, we’ll get players who want to play for us. He’s an English player.
“I don’t know Declan Rice. I never met him, apart from when I met him with Mick.
“But I was in camp with Luca Connell for 10 days. You get a feel for people. I guarantee you 100% he’s desperate to play for Ireland.”