James McClean, is there a more divisive figure in football? A proud Irishman and a proud Derryman. Never one to bite his tongue, always one to stand for what he believes in. Agree or disagree, hate him or love him, you cannot deny the pride and passion he pours into everything he does, and, having produced the performance he did after the week he’s endured, if you can’t respect that then you need to take a look at yourself.
Having endured the week that James has just had, one wouldn’t be begrudged for sitting out the game. Not James McClean. Wearing his old teammates jersey, watching all the tributes, the emotions could easily get the better of you. Not James McClean. Playing such a highly emotional in such an electric atmosphere, the game could easily pass you by. Not James McClean. Pouring your heart and soul into the jersey for the nation so dear to you and producing a man of the match performance. That is James McClean. Standing up for what you believe in, and, standing up to be counted when it counts. That is James McClean.
The tone of the game was set by the ever tenacious James McClean, bulldozing into a world class player in Gareth Bale and taking away the ball cleanly. This was a theme that continued throughout the match. In the early stages of the match Ireland found themselves pegged back by the Wales attack, one man was not lying down to take a beating. That man was James McClean. Covering every blade of the grass, winning the ball, pushing the team forward, taking players on and creating chances. As Ireland grew into the game as an attaching force, so did McClean. At times it seemed that McClean was at the centre of everything created. When Wales were attacking McClean was the man winning the ball back, when Ireland were stuck at the back McClean was driving the team forward, when the team was driven forward McClean was the man to step up, looking for the ball, making runs, linking up the play, beating men and creating chances.
He has a kind heart, a passionate soul and stands by his beliefs.
He is James McClean.
The Pride of Ireland.