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"He would be a bigger loss to Ireland than Jack Grealish or Declan Rice"

After losing Declan Rice and Jack Grealish to England, Shane Keegan explained to OTB Sports why Manchester City youngster Joe Hodge must be kept hold of at all costs. 

There is something to be said for the description afforded to Joe Hodge on Manchester City's official website.

"Joe has been the heartbeat of his age-group sides right through the academy," it reads, a fitting indication of the young player named City's Scholar of the Year in late July.

An underage international who has represented Ireland and England, the 17-year-old Hodge possesses everything that Stephen Kenny could want in a midfield player, according to Dundalk coach Shane Keegan.

"Well we know all the furore surrounding Jack Grealish and Declan Rice," he stated to OTB Sports, "but I'm telling you now that if we were to lose Joe Hodge it would be a bigger loss than either of the two of them."

An English-born player who qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through his Irish grandmother, he opted to play solely for Ireland in 2018.

"The guy is absolutely fantastic," remarked Keegan, "and he is everything that Irish football needs right now.

"Keep an eye out for him over the next while. He is a player in style of a half-Xavi, half-Iniesta and I think he is definitely one for us in the years to come."

Given past experiences, however, Keegan won't be getting too carried away just yet.

"It seems at the moment that he is 100% focused on Ireland," he said with a good degree of promise, "and he has been fantastic with the underage sides.

"We're just pre-conditioned at this stage though after what's happened with the other two to be so fearful."

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Declan Rice Jack Grealish Joe Hodge Manchester City Republic Of Ireland Shane Keegan

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