After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.
McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.
Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.
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McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).
“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.
“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”
James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.
McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.
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McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.
He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.
Irish football was stunned Sunday by the death of 27-year-old Derry City captain Ryan McBride, hours after he captained Northern Irish side Derry City to a 4-0 win over rivals Drogheda United.
McBride was a former non-league player whose family lived next to Derry City’s ground, and scored twice in his last four matches to give him 10 in 136 appearances.
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The cause of his death is unknown. Reports say he was feeling unwell after the match. It comes one year after Derry’s all-time leading scorer Mark Farren succumbed to a brain tumor.
Ex-manager Stephen Kenny described McBride as a “ferociously brave player”, and the Republic of Ireland’s president is among many big names to lament his death on social media.
But before that, let’s reflect on the time he upended two players with one slide tackle: