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.”
"The balls have arrived, and the kits arrived, so they are bound to win." Roy Keane can laugh now at the events of 10 years ago, when the Republic of Ireland's disorganisation prompted his infamous walk-out from the team's Saipan training base before the 2002 World Cup, but the jokes hide a serious point.