‘It’s time to step aside’ – James McClean set for Republic of Ireland farewell

James McClean will walk away from his Republic of Ireland career for personal reasons on Tuesday despite believing he can still do a job for his country.

The 34-year-old announced last month he would retire from international football after the friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium and he is set for a rousing send-off as he wins his 103rd and final cap.

However the former winger turned wing-back, who joined League Two Wrexham from Wigan this summer, insists the physical demands of the game are not behind the decision to end his 11-and-a-half-year spell in the green shirt.

He told a press conference: “I will be honest with you, it’s not because of my body, or I feel my ability has diminished. I still feel as fit as ever. I still believe I am the best person for the role.

“I have never doubted myself. I played 46 games out of 46 in the Championship last season, 45 of them starts. Ability-wise, I was second for full-backs in goals and assists, and for most successful tackles in the whole league.

“There’s other factors. I have personal reasons and my own reasons for stepping away, I feel now is the right time to step aside.

“Let others come through, I’ve had my time. For me now is the perfect time to step away. I have no regrets.”

McClean, who was first capped by Giovanni Trapattoni in February 2012 during his time at Sunderland, is a veteran of Ireland’s Euro 2012 and 2016 finals appearances.

The nation will not be at next summer’s European Championship in Germany after a disappointing qualification campaign during which the Derry-born player was used sparingly, and he admits his impending departure is tinged with sadness.

McClean said: “I feel grand. I’ve no plans to hang up the boots any time soon. I promised my wife and kids, because I’ve never had the summer off in a long time, that we’re going to book Florida and go away for a month, and enjoy Disneyland.

“I’ve never hid the fact that it means everything, the Ireland jersey. Along with the Derry City jersey, it’s the jersey that means more to me than anything else ever will.

“Tomorrow night, for the last time, I’ll pull it on. When I say it out loud, it’s a bit sad that’s going to be the case.

“I’ll do what I’ve done 102 times before, I’ll try and do it with as much pride and as much justice as possible.”

The departing McClean could be joined within days by manager Stephen Kenny, whose future after a return of six wins in 29 competitive games will be decided by the Football Association of Ireland’s board next week with his current contract due to expire on Tuesday night.

Kenny, who will be without defender Nathan Collins because of an ankle injury but striker Evan Ferguson is fit after he limped off in the Netherlands with a tight hamstring, still believes he has unfinished business in the role, but knows his fate is not in his own hands.

He said: “If it is my last game, so be it; if there is a new manager to follow me in that regard, I’ll wish him well, if that is the case and they make that decision.

“Regardless of what decision is made and if there is a new manager to come in after me, I’ll wish them well and I’ll wish the team well moving forward and I’ll always support Ireland, so from that point of view, that’s the way I view it.”

Sourse: breakingnews.ie

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