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James McClean hits back at Keith Gillespie's ‘defector’ jibe

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James McClean played for Northern Ireland as a youth before switching to the Republic

James McClean played for Northern Ireland as a youth before switching to the Republic

Keith Gillespie is one of the most-capped players in Northern Ireland's history

Keith Gillespie is one of the most-capped players in Northern Ireland's history

WILLIAM CHERRY

James McClean played for Northern Ireland as a youth before switching to the Republic

Footballer James McClean has slammed former Northern Ireland player Keith Gillespie for branding him a ‘defector’.

McClean (23) rejected Gillespie’s claim that the Sunderland star used alleged sectarianism and anti-Catholicism in the Northern Ireland set-up as an excuse to switch to the Republic.

McClean, who is preparing with the Irish squad for its Euro 2012 opener against Croatia on Sunday, said: “I’ve always wanted to play for the Republic of Ireland and I couldn’t be more proud that I am doing that. Just because I’ve grown up in Northern Ireland doesn’t change that.”

Ex-Manchester United ace Gillespie (37) said: “I’m of the firm belief that if you’re born in Northern Ireland you should not have the option of playing for the Republic.”

Belfast Telegraph