Belfast Telegraph

James McClean failed to get football 'joke' says Derry boss Shiels

By Claire McNeilly

Derry City football manager Kenny Shiels has accused James McClean of over-reacting after the Republic of Ireland international launched a scathing attack on him.

Londonderry-born McClean was angered at Shiels recently branding the Republic's football team as "England reserves" and Northern Ireland as "England reserves reserves".

James McClean slams Derry City boss for 'ridiculous comments' about international football 

But, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Shiels said his comments were "a joke" that Creggan native McClean had taken out of context.

Shiels, who hails from Upperlands in Co Londonderry, initially stoked McClean's ire by making reference to the number of footballers born in England and elsewhere who qualify for international squads on both sides of the border through their ancestry.

The 60-year-old added that he believed "international football is not what it used to be" and that there was "no pride in it any more because, once you have had a pint of Guinness, you could play for Ireland".

McClean, who played for Northern Ireland at junior international level before switching allegiance to the Republic, took exception to the remarks - although, rather uncharacteristically for him, decided to "hold his tongue" until after Derry City had secured third place in the southern Premier Division and qualified for European football next season.

"What right or what credentials does Kenny Shiels hold to make such ridiculous comments on international football?" asked the West Brom winger and former Candystripes star.

"For me, playing in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in front of thousands of people and wearing that green jersey means so much to me and my team-mates.

"He (Shiels) said Italians and Scottish people play for Ireland, but so do players such as David Forde, Seamus Coleman, Wes Hoolohan, Stephen Ward, Daryl Murphy and myself, players who graduated through local League of Ireland football."

The 27-year-old also told the Derry Journal: "Talk is cheap, but every local player harbours an ambition to play at the highest level possible.

"I think Shiels has done himself no favours with these insulting outbursts regarding international football.

"He's actually been laughed at and ridiculed on television following the comments and I don't believe a Derry City manager should be viewed as a comedian".

But Shiels, who managed several Irish League clubs including Coleraine and Ballymena United, countered: "This has all been taken out of context. I was having a joke with reporters from Dublin and Dundalk and that's all it was - a bit of banter; something said purely in jest a couple of months ago.

"We were winding each other up - and McClean knows that."

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