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28 February 2012; Republic of Ireland's James McClean at the end of squad training ahead of their side's International Friendly against the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, Gannon Park, Malahide, Co. Dublin. Photo by: SPORTSFILE

James McClean says Catholics can’t feel comfortable playing for Northern Ireland

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28 February 2012; Republic of Ireland's James McClean at the end of squad training ahead of their side's International Friendly against the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, Gannon Park, Malahide, Co. Dublin. Photo by: SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland new boy James McClean has claimed that no Catholic can feel comfortable playing for Northern Ireland under the Union Jack.

The Derry born Sunderland winger caused a furore last year when he switched allegiances from North to South after playing at under 21 level for Northern Ireland.

McClean was the subject of death threats earlier this week after his call-up to the Republic squad for the European Championships in Poland.

Now the 23-year-old, who closed his Twitter account after the threats, has added fuel to the ire with his latest remarks.

“As a Catholic in the Northern Ireland squad, you don’t feel part of the squad,” he told the Irish Sun.

“You don’t really feel at home. I think any Catholic would be lying if they said they did feel at home, seeing all those flags and hearing the songs and chants.

“For me, personally, I didn’t feel part of it. It’s probably the wrong thing to say but it was just a stepping stone in my career.”

McClean also told the paper that he dismissed the Twitter death threats as ‘a bit of fun,.

He added: “I was chatting with the club and things like that and it was best all round that that happened. I was happy enough to do it.

“To be honest, it didn’t really affect me or bother me. To me, I saw it as a bit of banter. But it was best for all parties that I closed it down.”

“That backlash had been well publicised already and I don’t want to get into it too much. I think enough has been said on it and for me it’s case closed.”

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness fired his own broadside at the detractors.
McGuinness said: “If a young fella decides to opt for the North or the South, I don’t think anyone should interfere politically with their choices.

“If they believe their career is best served by whatever team they play for, we should support them.
“Why should we be down on young people who take a decision to play for the North or South?

“We should admire what they are doing and let them get on with it.”

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