James McClean has hit out at players using Ireland as a stepping stone at international level, urging them to “sod off” if they are not proud to represent the country.
The subject of playing for one country then switching to another has come under much scrutiny as of late following Declan Rice’s international transfer from England to Ireland.
Rice had been involved in an international tug of war between the two countries ever since he was left out of Martin O’Neill’s Irish squad in August following contact from England.
English defender Michael Keane, who is now an international teammate of Rice’s, also recently admitted that he had used Ireland as a stepping stone at underage level.
Speaking to RTE ahead of Ireland’s game against Georgia on Tuesday night, McClean had some strong words for anyone thinking of following in Keane’s and Rice’s footsteps.
“He said he was a proud Irishman. Then he said he was a proud Englishman. If he’s both… good luck to him but I don’t buy it. I think you’re either one or the other.
“I was with Derry City when I got the call-up to play for the North and I turned it down because it’s not my country, it’s never been my country. I’m an Irishman.
“It’s not just Declan, it’s anyone else. If you’re not proud to be here and we’re a stepping stone then sod off and play for someone else.
“I’m an Irishman. I grew up on the island of Ireland, simple as that. We only want players here who want to play for Ireland, who feel Irish and are proud to be Irish.”
McClean also opened up on the difficult conditions of the Gibraltar game in which Ireland managed to scrap a 1-0 away win.
“It’s easy to sit home when you’re not playing in those conditions and say, ‘well Gibraltar are ranked where they are, you should just steamroll them’. If you’re asking me do I care, well I don’t. We went and got three points and that was the job we had to do going there, so job done.
“The fans have been great, The ones that fill the stadium are the true supporters and they’ve always got behind us. We’re not stupid. We know we need to perform on the pitch to get as much as we can from the crowd as well.”