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James McClean defends Mark Sykes’ decision to switch allegiances

James McClean

James McClean has backed Mark Sykes following the Oxford United midfielder’s decision to switch allegiances from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland.

Sykes informed the IFA of his decision to commit his playing future to the Republic of Ireland and James McClean has thrown his support behind the Belfast man.

Sykes has represented Northern Ireland at U21 level as recently as 2018 and he has been called up to the senior side in the past but he never earned a senior cap.

James McClean on Mark Sykes

The former Glenavon standout recently explained why he decided to make the switch and it’s a choice that McClean, who made an identical decision after playing for Northern Ireland’s U21 side, completely understands.

“You can’t help being who you are. As an Irishman I had no intention of ever playing for the North,” McClean said on talkSPORT when asked for his take.

James McClean

“I took advantage of a system that was there, I’ve said that in the past. But my dream, and I’m sure it’s Mark’s dream, as a young Irishman is to play for Ireland. It’s a decision he’s made; he’s born an Irishman and he wants to play for his country.

“He’s had a very good year with Oxford so best of luck to him and hopefully he goes on a path the same as I have.

James McClean

“I’m a proud Irishman, that’s where I was born and there’s a system there in the island of Ireland, and I suppose it’s not nice for fans of the North and those associated with the North.

“The system’s there and there’s an opportunity to better yourself.

“It was never my ambition to play for the North and I told them and that’s the way it is. I can’t speak for Mark but I’m sure that’s the same for him.”

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