Belfast Telegraph

McClean: I am sticking with Republic

By Damian Spellman

James McClean has killed off any lingering hopes Michael O’Neill had of bringing him back into the Northern Ireland fold.

In his first press conference this week since being appointed Northern Ireland boss, O’Neill said he would love to see the Sunderland new boy feature in his side.

The Londonderry-born ace played for Northern Ireland at youth and Under-21 level but opted for the Republic last year after turning down a Northern Ireland senior call-up.

The 22-year-old winger is now in sparkling form under new boss Martin O’Neill at Sunderland and there is no doubt he would be included in the Northern Ireland side but the player has a greater desire to head south.

McClean used twitter yesterday to insist that he won’t be changing his mind.

He wrote: “Following my dream, mind was never going to change, latest barage of insults come right on queue #irish.”

The news will come as another blow to O’Neill who has lost Kyle Lafferty and Chris Brunt for the friendly against Norway on February 29 through injury.

The new Northern Ireland boss has made contact with the former Derry City favourite but he is adament his international future lies with the Republic, saying: “If I don't get called up, then I'll live with that but I have confidence in my own ability that I will get a call-up at some stage with the Republic of Ireland. Hopefully this now puts this matter to bed.”

Sunderland travel to Championship side Peterborough in the third round of the FA Cup tomorrow (3.30pm) and boss Martin O’Neill will do all he can to address the one glaring absence on his CV.

The 59-year-old has never reached the final of the world's oldest club competition as either a player or a manager despite a trophy-laden career.

Even at the height of his playing days under Brian Clough as Nottingham Forest took Europe by storm, the FA Cup failed to yield the ultimate reward.

O'Neill said: “As a player, I never won it. We were in the quarter-finals three or four times with Nottingham Forest, one in particular in 1974 when we played at Newcastle and the crowd invaded the pitch.

“I don't know whether Mr Clough took it all that seriously or not at the time — of course he did, but you always felt that the league was the big thing.

“With Aston Villa, we reached the semi-final two years ago and were beaten by Chelsea. We had a couple of rather rough refereeing decisions, but doesn't everybody? But I have never reached the final, I have never been in it. It's the only competition, as a player, that Forest didn't win.”

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