James McClean says Denmark demons will haunt him until Ireland reach the World Cup
JAMES MCCLEAN insists the demons of Ireland’s heavy defeat to Denmark in the World Cup play-off won’t be exorcised until the team reach the global showpiece.
Instead of featuring in Russia this summer, McClean and his Ireland teammates will be watching the tournament on television after their attempt to end the 16-year drought was brought to a shuddering halt in November at Lansdowne Road.
Despite holding the Danes scoreless in Copenhagen, Ireland were walloped 5-1 in front of their own stunned fans, mainly due to the brilliance of hat-trick hero Christian Eriksen.
The Derryman struggled to convey his reaction in the immediate aftermath of the drubbing, clearly overcome by emotions in a brief on-pitch interview.
However, four months on, McClean was more philosophical, doing his best to put the set-back into context and look ahead to the 2018 calendar with a degree of optimism.
The 28-year-old is also determined to ensure he bows out of his international career by guiding the team to the Qatar-hosted World Cup in 2022.
“What happened that night will hurt for a long time,” the West Brom winger admitted today.
“At club level, you always have a chance to try put that right but we don’t have another match at international level until March.
“Nothing is going to put that right until we qualify for a World Cup. Let’s hope it happens in my playing career.”
Before then, Ireland have the task of reaching the Euros in 2020 and McClean is glad Martin O’Neill will be the helm. His fellow Foylesider was strongly linked with being appointed to the Stoke City managerial vacancy in January.
Martin O’Neill has a major rebuilding job on his hands for the upcoming UEFA Nations League and next year’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, with other mainstays likely to follow the lead of Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy by announcing their retirement from international football.
“Everyone wants to play, putting on that green jersey for your country is an amazing feeling.
“There’s probably been a few lads who’ve had to bide their time because they (Wes and Daryl) were ahead of them in the pecking order. A lot of players have been chomping at the bit, ready to play their part and that can only be a positive thing for the team.”
**James McClean was in Dublin today to launch Neymar Jr’s Five, Red Bull’s unique five-a-side football tournament for men and women, To participate in the regional qualifiers this February, teams of five to seven players must register at www.neymarjrsfive.com and select their preferred qualifier in either Dublin, Limerick, Belfast, Galway, Cork or Carlow with more qualifiers to be added in the coming weeks.