Ireland youngster Declan Rice has been reflecting on his first senior appearance for the Boys in Green in last week’s clash in Turkey.
The 19-year-old started at centre-half in an experimental three-man defence in Antalya, and despite the 1-0 defeat, Rice’s performance was one major positive to be taken away from he match. The West Ham was handed the man-of-the-match award for his efforts, and looked right at home among more seasoned internationals on both sides.
Speaking to RTE Sport in the wake of his first senior game with the Boys in Green, Rice described the build-up to being told that he would be playing from the start:
“I was thinking ‘am I going to play, am I going to get some minutes?’ as we were going away and Martin started me and I have probably had one of the games of my life. Now I’m coming here for a massive game. It has been a crazy international break.
“I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it – it’s something you dream of as a little boy to be honest, having a week like this.
“Literally an hour before the kick off was when I found out I was going to start against Turkey. The manager doesn’t name the team, that’s the way he works. We got there and an hour before he just said the team and straight away you just got to prepare yourself for what is coming and I was fully focused from that moment and knew it was a massive night for me ahead. I had to perform.”
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Rice’s calmness on the ball was a particular standout, no doubt a by-product of being part of a Premier League team for the past year or so – and credits his father with a big part of his game:
“I’m always composed, calm and always believe in my own ability and if I start well then I end up having a good game usually.
“I think it’s important that you’re vocal during the match, especially at centre-half. You’re basically the eyes and ears of the team and, if you don’t open your mouth, it’s not going to help the team out.
“It’s important to be vocal and to be fair I’ve always had that in me to be honest. One of the things my Dad has always said to me is make sure you’re vocal and before the game I always get a text off him telling me to do the things well and again ‘be vocal Dec’.
“I was trying to be vocal and help out the team as much as I can.”
Rice, along with goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara, went straight from the senior side to link up with the Ireland U21 team this week as they look to move a step closer to qualification for the European Championships. Noel King’s men face bottom-side Azerbaijan in Tallaghtm and know that only a win will keep the pressure on group leaders Germany – or maintain the push for a play-off spot, at least.