Death threats have been directed at former Northern Ireland U-21 footballer James McClean following his selection to play for the Republic at the Euro 2012 finals next month.
Two of the messages directed at him on Twitter threatened to have him shot and also contained sectarian abuse.
The winger, who plays for Sunderland in the Premier League, discovered yesterday that Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni had included him in the squad.
McClean, now 23, has been subjected to abuse from scores of unhappy Northern Ireland fans since he declared for the Republic, having been brought through the ranks by the Irish FA.
He has previously only been capped once at senior level for the Republic as a substitute, but following a stunning six months on Wearside was tipped for Euro 2012 success by Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill.
O’Neill himself had a very successful career as a Northern Ireland international. The Sunderland winger took to Twitter yesterday to share his joy regarding the squad selection with his 49,000 online followers.
He said: “Absolutely honoured and couldn't be happier to have been called up to represent my country at the euros no better feelin! #COYBIG #ireland #euro12”
This was met with messages of congratulations, but also some posts that were full of sectarian abuse and threats to kill.
One Twitter user, with the account ‘RobbieLittle@PotKettleBlack3’, posted: “F*** up your dirty fenian b****** il make sure you get shot when you set foot back into gods country #FTP.”
Another using the name ‘James W Magee@JamesWMagee07’ posted: “U deserve to be shot for that comment!! Your playing for Ireland and not the country you were born in (NI). #p****”
Both messages have since been deleted.
McClean, who carries an Irish passport and identifies himself on Twitter as a ‘Irish professional footballer’ made a general response following the hate-filled abuse.
He said: “Love the dogs abuse am gettin of shock N.I fans, just worry about watchin ur own country at the euros... oh wait #mybad #awkward haha.”
It’s not the first time a prominent Catholic player has been targeted for sectarian abuse and death threats by so-called Northern Ireland fans.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was singled out for abuse from bigots after joining the Glasgow club as a player, despite turning out for the side on 40 occasions.
He retired from international football in 2002 following a death threat before Northern Ireland played Cyprus, after he made comments that he would like to play for an all-Ireland team.
Lennon was later targeted with parcel bombs by bigots in Scotland.
Last month McClean, who made seven appearances for Northern Ireland’s U-21 team while at Derry City, told Sunday Life he felt uncomfortable playing at international level for the underage teams.
He said: “You’re looking around as a Catholic and seeing all the Union Jacks and listening to the songs the fans sing and I just didn't feel at home at all,” he explained.
“Even in the squads I felt like a bit of an outsider. There weren’t too many Catholics, it just didn’t feel right.”
Fellow Londonderry native Darron Gibson also found out yesterday that he had been selected for the Republic’s squad.
From Institute to The Stadium Of Light...how winger’s star has continued to rise
November 11, 2007
Makes his debut for Institute against Glentoran as a 18-year-old amateur in a 4-0 defeat.
September 8, 2008
Having turned down a move to Lincoln City, McClean moves to Derry and makes his debut as a substitute against Cork City.
Derry's relegation hands McClean more opportunities and he scores eight goals as they are promoted.
April 1, 2011
Scores his first Premier Division goal against Bray Wanderers and goes on to score five in April.
July 8, 2011
Reading manager Brian McDermott and Peterborough's Darren Ferguson join Wigan scouts in travelling to Derry to watch him.
July 26, 2011
Receives call-up to the Northern Ireland senior squad, but declines in hope of playing for Republic.
August 10, 2011
Signs for Sunderland on a three-year deal for £325,000. Boss Steve Bruce cautions that he is one for the future.
December 8, 2011
After a poor start to the season, Bruce is replaced by Martin O'Neill, who catches the new manager's eye.
December 12, 2011
With Blackburn leading 1-0 in O'Neill's first match, he throws on the 22-year-old for his debut. McClean makes an immediate impact.
January 1, 2012
McClean is handed his first start as Sunderland stun Man City.
January 3, 2012
Scores his first Premier League goal in the win over Wigan.
February 10, 2012
Now a regular starter for Sunderland, McClean receives international clearance to play for the Republic, but Giovanni Trapattoni remains unconvinced.
February 20, 2012
Added to the Republic’s squad after strong displays in two games against Arsenal.
February 29, 2012
Makes his Republic debut as a substitute against the Czechs.
May 2, 2012
Earns the Young Player of the Year award at Sunderland after six goals in 29 appearances for the Black Cats. Trapattoni says McClean is “90-99%” certain to go to Euro 2012.
McClean is named in the 23-man squad for the European Championships.