James McClean turned in a performance that former Ireland international and current RTÉ commentator Ronnie Whelan deemed worthy of a ‘Man of the Match’ award at the Aviva Stadium tonight, as the Republic of Ireland played to a scoreless draw with Wales in a World Cup qualifier.
That McClean did so in a week where he was forced to come to terms with the deaths of two men that meant so much to his hometown of Derry and whom he considered close personal friends, Derry City F.C captain Ryan McBride(27) and former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness(66), was truly remarkable. Not only because he had to cope with and overcome the emotion involved in the situation, but, as Richard Sadlier pointed out on RTÉ after the game, because of the extra pressure and attention it brought upon him heading into a crunch clash.
McClean said during a post-match interview that McBride and McGuinness were in his thoughts right before the game, but that he had tried to use the emotion that these thoughts conjured as fuel. Said the West Bromich Albion club man, “I tried to put that the right way – into my performance. Hopefully tonight I did the two lads proud.”
Wales were better than us on the night, admits James McClean after the draw against Wales pic.twitter.com/SEcdYoG9hS
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) March 24, 2017
Following the interview, the aforementioned Sadlier and his regular verbal sparring partner Eamon Dunphy were in agreement on their assessment of McClean’s passionate performance on the pitch and of his overall character. The two lavished praise upon the 27-year-old, with Dunphy calling McClean “a terrific young man in every way.”
Sadlier and Dunphy on McClean pic.twitter.com/nMJxgUuqdg
— Sporting Moments (@sportingmoment4) March 24, 2017
McClean’s performance was one of the few bright spots in what was a dour affair in Dublin which also saw Irish captain Seamus Coleman suffering a horrific injury thanks to a dreadful challenge from Neil Taylor.