The Derry native chose not to wear the special jersey with the poppy woven into the fabric, and his decision was greeted with predictable social media outrage.
While the Ireland manager's relationship with McClean has been strained at times, he says that the 23-year-old is entitled to make his own call.
"This is his choice, the mentality, the habit," he said.
"I think it's a personal choice and obviously I will defend the player. Maybe it's not over until now, the situation with the Irish people, the north and south people."
Nevertheless, he suggested that, as the years pass, McClean might take a different stance.
"Players are young, they are kids," he continued. "I am sure in five to 10 years, they become old, they will have more experience in life and can think more about every situation."