Ireland winger James McClean paid an emotional tribute to his fellow Derry natives Martin McGuinness and Ryan McBride, after his man-of-the-match display in Ireland’s 0-0 draw against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
Wearing the No.5 shirt that McBride made his own in the Derry City team, McClean turned in an all-action display after a week that saw him return home to pay his respects to his former team-mate and former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister McGuinness.
With emotion rippling in his voice, McClean gave a heartfelt interview to Sky Sports as he paid tribute to his two departed colleagues.
“It has been well publicised that it has been a tough week for the town of Derry and a very tough week for myself personally,” stated McClean. “Two great lads who I had a good relationship with passed away.
“Ryan who I played with at Derry City and obviously got to know off the field as well and Martin who was a huge figure in myself. More so in the last few years when I got to know him really well and I had a very good relationship with him.
“In the space of two days, for those two to pass away was very tough, but I tried to put all my emotion into my performance and hopefully I did the two lads proud.
“The lads have rallied around me, the manager as well. They let me go up to Derry on Tuesday and say my goodbyes, so I felt that I owed them a performance. Hopefully I did that tonight.”
McClean then offered to donate his shirt from the game to the McBride family, with his voice cracking as he made these comments.
“I thought it would be a nice touch,” he added as he reflected on his move to wear that No.5 jersey. “If the family want it, then I should give it to them.
“It has been a tough week for all of us, but I can’t imagine the pain they are going through and my thoughts are with them.”
McClean also offered words of comfort for Ireland captain Seamus Coleman, who suffered a broken leg after a clash with Neil Taylor.
“It was a bad tackle, I’ll leave it at that,” he added. “It’s not nice for Seamy. He is a world class player for us and Everton and he will be missed.”
RTE football pundit Eamon Dunphy has labelled Neil Taylor's horror challenge on Ireland captain Seamus Coleman as 'vicious and nasty' during Ireland's 0-0 draw with Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
A disciplined Ireland display negated Gareth Bale's influence but we failed to create many chances. Most of our thoughts are with Seamus Coleman after he suffered an awful injury.
A SHOCKING but fascinating game and a positive result for Ireland which keeps Wales at bay for now but their injury-ravaged World Cup campaign was hit by the biggest blow imaginable when captain Seamus Coleman was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg.