James McClean left out of Ireland squad hours after announcing international retirement

Evan Ferguson returns but Troy Parrott misses out despite impressive run of form with Excelsior Rotterdam

James McClean has been dropped by the Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, three hours after the Wrexham winger announced his intention to retire from international football at the end of 2023.

“I have spoken with Stephen Kenny and the New Zealand match in November at the Aviva Stadium will be the last time that I will celebrate pulling on the green jersey as a player and give me a chance to say goodbye to the best fans in the world,” said McClean via an FAI statement at 10.13am. “It will be heartbreaking not to be involved beyond this year, but I feel now is the right time to step aside without any regrets.”

The retirement statement suggested that McClean would play a role in the remainder of the Euros 2024 qualifiers, against Greece and Gibraltar this month and away to the Netherlands in November.

However, by 1.07pm, Kenny had left out the 34-year-old from a 24-man squad to face Greece at the Aviva stadium on Friday week and Gibraltar in Faro the following Monday.


Southampton’s Ryan Manning and Celtic’s Liam Scales are the left-sided defenders called up by Kenny.

“James was obviously named in the provisional squad and I have regular contact with James,” the manager explained. “Obviously Liam Scales is actually in very good form at Celtic playing in the Champions League, and he’s played a lot on the left side as well, and also, Ryan Manning has had some good form for Southampton recently.

“James has had a great career, he’s had a terrific career and it’s not beyond possibility I’ll be calling him at the weekend after there’s injury and asking him to come back in and play. That is the reality sometimes when you name squads.

“He’s had a terrific career, James. Young Irish players can learn a lot from him, how he approached his career. Ireland was always at the forefront of his thoughts, it was always the pinnacle for him and it was always the most important thing, to play for his country. You had to respect that.

“From my point of view as a manager, if there’s any grey areas about who might play in the team... he’s so forceful in his training performances, sometimes he gets himself in the team by just his sheer intensity in his training in the sessions.

“It’s hard to ignore him then, when someone trains like that and in the games.”

And yet, Kenny has moved beyond the winger capped 102 times, scoring 11 goals since his debut in 2012, despite starting him against the Dutch.

Veteran midfielder Jeff Hendrick and Troy Parrott are other notable exclusions from the 24-man squad that does see Evan Ferguson, Mikey Johnston and Callum Robinson return from injury.

Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher is absent, with an unspecified injury so Bristol City stopper Max O’Leary will shadow Gavin Bazunu and Mark Travers.

Kenny opted to keep Andy Moran and Sinclair Armstrong in the under-21 squad for the Euros qualifier against Latvia, as Jamie McGrath and Mark Sykes make up the seven midfield slots.

With Ireland captains, John Egan and Seamus Coleman, also unavailable due to injury, Shane Duffy is expected to continue wearing the skipper’s armband.

Ireland face Greece next Friday at the Aviva Stadium (7.45pm kick-off) before travelling to Gibraltar on October 16th.

Republic of Ireland Squad to face Greece and Gibraltar

Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Mark Travers (Stoke City, on loan from AFC Bournemouth), Max O’Leary (Bristol City).

Defenders: Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Festy Ebosele (Udinese), Nathan Collins (Brentford), Shane Duffy (Norwich City), Dara O’Shea (Burnley), Andrew Omobamidele (Nottingham Forest), Liam Scales (Celtic), Ryan Manning (Southampton).

Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Mark Sykes (Bristol City).

Forwards: Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion), Adam Idah (Norwich City), Aaron Connolly (Hull City), Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton Town), Callum Robinson (Cardiff City), Mikey Johnston (Celtic).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent