Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Catholics don't feel comfortable playing for Northern Ireland'

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

He may have closed his Twitter account, but James McClean is unlikely to be any more popular amongst Northern Ireland fans after suggesting that any Catholic "would be lying" if they claimed to feel comfortable lining out as a home player in Windsor Park.

The former Derry City player received death threats earlier this week for some jokey comments aimed at his detractors, yet he appears unfazed by the experience. He didn't really want to talk about it yesterday, stressing that he wouldn't be returning to the social media site.

However, he again asserted that he never felt comfortable lining out for the North at underage level.

"It's probably the wrong thing to say but it was just a stepping stone in my career," said McClean. "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 (Union Jacks) and hearing the songs and chants.

"For me, personally, I didn't feel part of it. I gave a piece -- an article -- not that long back and I was just describing how, as a Catholic in the squad, you don't feel part of the squad."


The new Northern Ireland boss, Michael O'Neill, is a Catholic and was keen to change McClean's mind. That was never going to happen, but the player believes that the ex-Shamrock Rovers boss can make it a more welcoming environment.

"That needs to happen. It's important that it does. Michael is a great manager and was supportive of the decision I made. Catholics should feel more welcomed and part of it when called into the Northern Ireland squad."

Did he feel worried about his safety earlier this week?

"I don't see that at all," he said. "I don't really want to talk about it. For me, it's case closed. To me, it's just a bit of banter. Other people haven't seen it that way.

"It was best for all parties to close it (Twitter) down."

Irish Independent

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