McClean plumps for Republic as international option

SOCCER: SUNDERLAND-BOUND winger, James McClean, opted not to join the Northern Ireland senior team in Belfast yesterday, prior…

SOCCER:SUNDERLAND-BOUND winger, James McClean, opted not to join the Northern Ireland senior team in Belfast yesterday, prior to their Euro 2012 qualifying game against the Faroe Islands in Belfast on Wednesday.

However, the 22-year-old ex-Derry City player insisted he had informed team boss, Nigel Worthington, of his intentions by contacting him by telephone on Saturday night rather than simply not turning up at the team hotel yesterday.

The left-winger, who is expected to sign a three year full-time contract following a medical in Sunderland this afternoon, said he appreciated the Northern Ireland call-up, but his dream was to play for the Republic of Ireland at senior level.

Commenting before his departure for Sunderland last night, he said: “I rang Nigel Worthington on Saturday night and while I appreciated the call-up to the senior team having played at under-21 level, my dream has always been to play for the Republic of Ireland.


“And now that Sunderland have offered me a full-time contract, I have to follow my heart,” he added.

Derry City agreed a transfer fee understood to be in the region of €400,000 plus add-ons on Friday night, a decision which saw McClean withdrawn from the squad that defeated Galway United 3-0 at Terryland Park.

However, McClean has not been involved with the Republic at any level and, indeed, is not expected to be on Giovanni Trapattoni’s radar at the moment, but he felt the move to Sunderland would increase his chances of an international call-up.

“At the moment, my total focus is on joining Sunderland and I intend to work very hard in an effort to improve and, hopefully, play in the first team squad.

“I told Nigel (Worthington) that and while I have not been called-up to the Republic of Ireland squad, I’d rather follow my heart and not close the door on such a possibility in the future.

“ I don’t want to be tied up internationally at this stage of my career and I’m prepared to take a risk in that regard,” he concluded.