James McClean hits back at critics after defeat to Denmark
Winger James McClean has hit back at criticism of the Republic of Ireland's World Cup play-off humiliation at the hands of Denmark.
The Republic headed into Tuesday night's second leg with high hopes of building on a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Copenhagen on Saturday to book a trip to Russia next summer.
However, despite taking the lead, they eventually went down 5-1 at the Aviva Stadium as Danish star Christian Eriksen helped himself to a hat-trick.
McClean was devastated at the result, but defended both the players and manager Martin O'Neill and his staff, who took the nation to the Euro 2016 finals where they lost to hosts France in the last 16.
In a post on his Instagram account, he said: "Last night is going to hurt deeply for a long long time, nothing can change or make what happened last night right.
"Of course everyone is entitled to voice their opinion because it was simply not good enough from us on the night, we know that ourselves.
"But to stick the boot in and kick players and staff when they are down (players and staff [who] have been great servants to this country, players and staff that have qualified for a major tournament and were unlucky to be knocked out to a great team in the last 16, players and staff that were one game from making it to a World Cup, players and staff that would give anything for this great country) with some over-the-top beyond football comments is bang out of order, hurting or not - and trust me when a say this, we hurt every bit as much as you do.
"I am proud and honoured to be an Irishman and to call everyone of these men fellow countrymen and team mates.
"Like I said, this will hurt deeply. We have been written of so many times before and just like before, we will bounce back."
McClean was one of Ireland's better players during the campaign, scoring four of their 13 goals including winners in both Austria and Wales.