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James McClean speaks his mind on joining Irish squad

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James McClean

At 23 James McClean is definitely old enough to know better, so we have to assume he knew what he was doing when he sat down in front of a bank of microphones in Dublin last week.

In the course of a wide-ranging interview in the Clarion Hotel out by the airport McClean spoke on many topics, including his elevation to the Ireland squad for the forthcoming European Championships.

He also discussed his decision to switch allegiances from Northern Ireland to the Republic.

As a Derry native, and under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, McClean is free to do just that like anyone else born north, or even south, of the border.

It is, as you can imagine, a sore subject as far as the football authorities in Belfast are concerned.

So you can imagine their reaction when McClean opened his heart on the difficulties he experienced trying to play for the Northern Ireland under-21 side as a Catholic from the streets around the Brandywell in Derry.

McClean told the reporters how he never felt at home playing for a team whose anthem wants God to save the Queen of England and whose flags are mostly of a Union Jack variety.

He went so far as to claim no Catholic can feel comfortable, an opinion the IFA have sought to disagree with in the days since he uttered those words.

Those of us who haven’t been in McClean’s shoes shouldn’t criticize him for his convictions.

He knows what he went through in the Northern Ireland colors before he switched to the south, he knows well the abuse and the death threats that came his way on Twitter in recent weeks and months.

McClean made a stand last week. He followed his heart and he spoke his mind.

For that alone, he is to be commended. In a sport dominated by blandness, his honesty is to be applauded, not condemned.

And I hope his feet can talk as passionately in Poland this summer. If they do, maybe even those who threatened his life will admit the error of their ways and say well done.

Sideline Views
SOCCER: One Ireland coach will urge our heroes to “talk with your feet. Play with your heart” in Poland this summer – the Irish team bus that is. Sponsors Hyundai have plastered that phrase across the Irish team’s coach after a slogan writing competition for fans. Group rivals Croatia will travel under a banner reading “Our pride is our strength” while Spain’s slogan reads “A reason to live, a reason to dream. Viva Espana.” All Italy want to do is “Let’s turn Europe blue.”
And England? They have gone for “One prize, two countries, three lions.” They just couldn’t resist the three lions, could they?

GAA: Looks like the Donegal players have signed up for a code of silence again this summer, the same code of silence that cost Kevin Cassidy his inter-county career when he broke it last year. I know this thanks to reports in the papers this week, but presumably none of the players told reporters that bit of news – or they’d be in real trouble presumably.

RUGBY: There’s an All-Ireland final in the Heineken Cup this weekend when Leinster play Ulster in London – and Leinster will win. Remember who told you!


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