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02nd Jun 2024

John O’Shea opens door for return of “incredible” James McClean

Ronan Calvert

O'Shea McClean

James McClean could come out of international retirement.

Interim Republic of Ireland manager John O’Shea says he has spoken with James McClean and didn’t rule out calling up the Wrexham wing-back next season.

“I was congratulating him with the season he had with Wrexham,” said O’Shea ahead of Tuesday’s international friendly against Hungary.

“But I said, ‘Look, just go and enjoy your summer’. If he’s showing what he can do later on next season, we can deal with that.

“For the summer, I said I was largely going to focus on the squad I’ve picked for the last two games (against Belgium and Switzerland), with maybe one or two others as well.”

“James will never consider himself officially retired. He’s so proud to represent Ireland but for me, it wasn’t going to be the case that he was going to be involved.”

Interesting here is how O’Shea suggests he could be in the Ireland manager’s seat “later on next season”.

Even if not based on new information, those words, at least, show O’Shea’s optimism about his chances at getting history’s slowest nod from Director of Football Marc Canham.

And if he does, it sounds like bringing James McClean out of international retirement could be one of his first tricks – that’s if his form justifies it.

McClean disappointed with Kenny treatment.

McClean retired from international duty last November as he bid farewell to the Aviva Stadium against New Zealand.

Speaking recently, however, McClean suggested that his retirement had to do with then-manager Stephen Kenny showing “disrespect” towards his club situation.

McClean made the decision to drop from the Championship to League Two by signing with Ryan Reynolds-owned Wrexham and was deeply unimpressed by Kenny’s reaction to the news; something which influenced him to call it a day.

“I remember a phone call that I had with the manager of Ireland at the time and I told him about the move to Wrexham, he couldn’t wait to get off the phone,” said McClean at an event for World Autism Month.

“Ultimately I would say that contributed a major factor in my decision to step away from Ireland.

“In a way sometimes you make the decision, but you are made to walk the plank in a way.

“For me, it was like, if I don’t walk away now I may never get the opportunity to say goodbye on my terms.”

“[It was the] first time in 12 years that I was ever left out of the squad,” said McClean.

“I thought it was very disrespectful. Sometimes all you need to know is when you have a phone call and you can’t get a man off the phone, and then when you have another phone call and all of a sudden they can’t get off the phone (quickly enough).

“That speaks to what he thought about the move. At the time he was obviously the Ireland manager and he made his decision.

Despite being substituted as a means to wave goodbye to the Irish fans, and then finishing the match with a guard of honour from his teammates, McClean still thought Kenny should have made his farewell match more special for him.

“I’ll be honest, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, how my Ireland career ended, because the occasion itself, I got to say goodbye on my terms to the Aviva crowd, which is obviously special.

“For an end of season friendly game, to not even be given the opportunity to lead the team out and then to be taken off after 66 minutes, not even as a single substitution but as a double substitution, I just thought that was poor and it’s a moment you never get back.”

With his former international teammate O’Shea acting as Ireland’s manager for the time being, McClean’s tune has now changed.

And the good news for McClean is that, although O’Shea acknowledges Ireland needs young blood at wing-back, he has already called up players from McClean’s generation for the left flank.

“He’s incredible,” said O’Shea, complimenting McClean’s conditioning for a 35-year-old, “the way he looks after himself.

“I picked Enda Stevens and Robbie Brady. They’re in their early 30s, but we need some more younger (players) . ..Ryan Manning is 28.

“We need more younger ones to keep kicking on and producing as well.”

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