James McClean hopes to finish his career at Derry City

Wrexham winger had plenty to say about the state of Irish domestic football

Former Derry City winger James McClean was in Dublin this week to promote autism charity As I Am, and the visit got him thinking about the old days, and a possible return to the Brandywell.

Presumably he will be tuning in on Friday night for Shamrock Rovers’ trip to the Brandywell to face Derry (live on RTÉ Two). It’s second versus fourth with Shelbourne five points clear at the top in the Premier Division.

Only 10 games into the season, the clash is sure to impact the title race before another full round of fixtures on Monday, when Rovers face Shels at Tolka Park and St Patrick’s Athletic visit Derry.

Still, imagine McClean, now at Wrexham, reappearing in candy stripes, 13 years after leaving. Despite turning 35 on Monday, the Creggan native intends to finish his career at home.


“I’ve never hidden the fact that I want to finish my career at Derry City,” he said. “Maybe there might be a role there for me. I got on quite well with the board and will be dropping a few hints to Sean [Barrett] and Phil [O’Doherty] to say what role is available after hanging up my boots.”

Director of Football would suit him nicely.

McClean also had plenty to say about the state of domestic football in Ireland and how it should be higher up the FAI’s list of priorities.

“You need a good domestic league. You need a good academy set-up in each team. We need good funding. We are miles behind. There is no getting away from that. We are miles behind England, even Wales, miles behind other countries in Europe.

“I saw Duffer [Damien Duff] speak about the future of Irish football, how it is through the domestic league and he’s spot on. He’s not saying ‘call up the players from the League’ [to Ireland] squads but there has to be a platform from a young age for players to have the best access available to go on and flourish.

“You have a strong domestic league, the [higher the] chances you are going to send players across the water, which is going to help the international team. For me, it’s a no-brainer. If you’ve a very good funded set-up in the League of Ireland, a strong domestic league, it’s only going to bear fruit to the international team going forward.”

McClean’s own household provides a clear example. James McClean jnr is only eight but he just signed a two-year academy contract with Crewe Alexandra, a club that already has him playing off both feet.

“They teach that at Crewe. They work just as well off both feet. It’s drummed into them. I look at the set-up Crewe have, a League Two team, to the League of Ireland and it’s phenomenal. It’s miles ahead. Night and day. Why can’t we have that here?”

Tonight’s fixtures (all 7.45pm kick-offs)

Premier Division: Bohemians v Drogheda Utd; Derry City v Shamrock Rovers; Galway Utd v Shelbourne; Sligo Rovers v Dundalk; St Patrick’s Athletic v Waterford FC.

First Division: Bray Wanderers v Treaty Utd; Cobh Ramblers v Finn Harps; Kerry FC v Athlone Town; Wexford FC v UCD.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent