JAMES MCCLEAN: IT WILL ALWAYS BE COUNTRY BEFORE CLUB FOR ME
DERRY’S James McClean has expressed his disapproval of players who put club before country as he prepares to win his 50th Republic of Ireland cap against Mexico.
The 28-year-old Creggan lad is in line to captain Ireland at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey during the early hours of Friday morning on what will be a landmark occasion for him.
Manager Martin O’Neill has praised the 28-year-old West Brom winger for asking to make the trip to the United States when many of his Premier League counterparts are not joining up with the squad until they return to Dublin at the weekend, but the man himself was having none of it.
Said dad James: “What motivation do you need to play for your country? I’m fit and ready and available for selection.
“It gets on my nerves when players come in and they’re not fit for games, but they are for the club games at the weekend. That gets to me.
“To see the excitement here of lads who want to wear that jersey, it’s brilliant. It rubs off on you.”
With record scorer Robbie Keane having retired from international football with 68 senior goals to his name, there is a huge void to be filled, and McClean is hoping to continue doing his part.
He said: “That’s my job. Robbie’s gone now. We’ve got to share them. I’ve three [in the campaign] so far – I want to get as many as possible.”
O’Neill’s squad of 19 players were put through their paces under unseasonably grey skies at the New York Red Bulls training facility in Whippany, New Jersey, on Tuesday morning after flying in from Dublin on Monday.
The manager was remaining coy over his selection, but Brighton defender Shane Duffy is likely to play a significant part after being out of action since the beginning of March with a fractured metatarsal, as is Newcastle striker Daryl Murphy, who will hope for a start against the Austrians with Shane Long sidelined.
O’Neill said: “Some players need to play, especially if they’ve got a chance of being involved against Austria.
“We’ve got two games – we don’t want to lose and we want to develop some pattern of play.”
Everton midfielder James McCarthy will miss the qualifier against Austria as he struggles to shake off hamstring and groin problems, and that also leaves a gap to plug in the middle of the field.
However, O’Neill revealed that Bournemouth’s Harry Arter, who sat out his club’s final game of the Premier League season, will join up with the squad on the other side of the Atlantic.
He said: “He was always going to miss the last game of the season. I think he was getting over some things. He’ll be in when we get back.”