Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

McCann takes break from internationals

Taking a break: Grant McCann

Northern Ireland's Grant McCann has revealed that he has made one of the toughest calls of his life by deciding to take a break from international football.

The Peterborough player-coach insists that he is not retiring from the international scene but says that right now he wants to focus on his club and family.

McCann, who is 33, was in Michael O'Neill's squad for last week's 1-0 victory over Russia in a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park, but he did not see any action as a substitute.

McCann has generally operated in the centre of midfield or on the left for his country. Although still regarded as a useful squad member it's clear he has slipped down the pecking order when Michael O'Neill is selecting his starting XI .

Players like Oliver Norwood and Shane Ferguson have moved ahead of him to join captain Steve Davis in midfield and remember Chris Baird and Chris Brunt weren't in the panel for the Russia game but are expected to return to the fold for next month's qualifier at home to Portugal pushing McCann further down O'Neill's thought process.

McCann has been a fine servant for Northern Ireland since making his debut against Malta 12 years ago. He has won 39 caps and scored four international goals but is embarking on a new stage of his career having becoming a coach at his club Peterborough, who last season were relegated to League One.

He remains a key player for Posh, but for now at least does not wish to be considered for international duty.

He said: "I've made one of the toughest decisions of my life but one I felt I needed to make for my future.

"My main objective is to get Peterborough back in to the Championship and to concentrate on coaching with the Under-15s.

"I'm at an age where club football, my coaching and family come first. I have decided to take time away from international football – I haven't retired as such."

Leaving the door open for a return McCann added: "If I'm ever needed to play again for Northern Ireland then I will be there."

It seems unlikely then that McCann will make it to 40 caps, unless there is an injury or suspension crisis, but at least the Belfast man can rest up on international weeks safe in the knowledge that his dream of playing for Northern Ireland came true many times and that he was always a whole hearted performer for his country.

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