Martin O'Neill slams suggestion he should have 'entrapped' Declan Rice into playing for Republic of Ireland
By Lyall Thomas
Last Updated: 19/11/18 7:15am
Martin O'Neill has slammed "crazy" suggestions that he should have "entrapped" Declan Rice into playing for the Republic of Ireland.
The manager has faced criticism for not fielding Rice in a competitive game before the debacle over which country the West Ham starlet will play for - Ireland or England - a debate that still rumbles on.
O'Neill said it is "lunacy" for him to prioritise this over winning, and described it as "entrapment" as his team come to the end of their UEFA Nations League campaign with a clash against Denmark.
"I find it incredible to think that I should be thinking about (that), in a game where we are fighting for our lives," he said as Republic of Ireland landed in Scandinavian ahead of the game on Monday night, live on Sky Sports.
"I assume you mean Moldova at home before Wales (in which it was suggested Rice should have played)? I haven't really thought through exactly where Rice was in that particular scheme, I don't know if he was playing regularly for West Ham at the time - I doubt it.
"We brought him in, he trained with us in the summer time, and enjoyed his training immensely, and he was playing games in friendly matches. But I don't know whether it was the first thing on my mind - (to play him against) Moldova.
"We went in there with a few injuries, we had a game against Wales a few days later, and had to try and win the game - that was the most important thing.
"To think about putting him on for a couple of minutes at the end of a game, just to cap him competitively, is crazy - crazy thinking, if that's what you should be doing; that you should have your mind set on that.
"Secondly - and probably just as importantly - the player would know. So if Declan had thoughts about who he was going to play for, I think that would have reared its head at that particular time as well. So to have that sort of criticism directed at you is, I think, lunacy - real lunacy.
"There are certain things I'm responsible for, but certainly someone making his mind up, and trying entrapment, is not in my head-space; far from it. So I think that whole situation is ludicrous. The player would have been well aware of it and could easily have pulled out, had he even been in the squad."
While Rice still mulls over his international future while impressing in the Premier League, Southampton's 18-year-old striker Michael Obafemi is expected to play his first competitive international, after committing himself to the Republic of Ireland last week.
O'Neill said: "If he has committed himself to us now - as he has done - then we'll think about playing him in the game. But it's his choice - his family's choice - and that's a different issue to Declan."