IT was a terrible day for West Ham on Sunday as Manchester United strolled to a 4-0 victory – but one Irish teenager won praise for his resilient Old Trafford performance.
Ireland youth international Declan Rice came on for West Ham in the second half, with many taking to social media to praise his cameo appearance in claret and blue.
Rice – voted Ireland’s best player at U17 level in March – came on in the 60th minute to replace English midfielder Mark Noble, whose own grandparents hail from Cork.
The 18-year-old plays mainly as a centre-back but looked composed at the heart of the Hammers' midfield despite the thrashing.
The talented youngster has already played for the Republic of Ireland U21s and was invited to a training camp in Cork with Martin O’Neil’s senior squad back in May.
Rice grew up in London but qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through his grandparents.
Voted West Ham’s Young Hammer of the Year at the end of last season, he is seen as one of the Academy of Football’s biggest young prospects alongside the likes of Reece Oxford, Reece Burke and fellow Ireland youth international Josh Cullen.
— Mark Daws (@Dawstours) August 13, 2017
Only one who looked like they know how to play football! Well done ??
— Sam Thomas Nicola (@st90nicola) August 13, 2017
You deserve to start mate..keeping working hard and you will be in the starting 11 in no time ??⚒
— West Ham (@WHULondon_) August 13, 2017
Congrats @_DeclanRice coming on at old Trafford! Getting the chance you deserve ????
— Lewis Page (@LewisPage3) August 13, 2017
Taking to Twitter after his half-hour cameo, Rice said: “Gutted with that result, but it's important we bounce back and go again at Southampton. Delighted to have got more minutes today."
Rice won praise from a number of Ireland and West Ham fans who praised him as the “only Hammer to put in a good performance".
One impressed fan said: “Proud of you today Declan as I am sure many Hammers are today. Keep going mate, never give up and remember we are all behind you.”
Another added: “You deserve to start mate. Keep working hard and you will be in the starting 11 in no time.”
Speaking at the end of last season, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic gave a glowing assessment of the young Irishman’s ability.
“Declan is very good for his age. He is extremely good, he is mature and it’s all based on the training and he plays very well for the U23s,” he said.
“He has a bright future in him and it’s all down to him.”
Yesterday's silver lining... pic.twitter.com/504PNdPcGp
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) August 14, 2017