Republic of Ireland’s James McClean is given an guard of honour (Niall Carson/PA)
James McClean has backed the Republic of Ireland’s new generation to fulfil their potential after calling time on his international career.
The 34-year-old won his 103rd and last Ireland cap in Tuesday night’s 1-1 friendly draw with New Zealand and bade an emotional farewell to team-mates and fans alike after a 11 and a half years in the green shirt during which he played at the finals of two major tournaments.
McClean is not the only man whose time in the international set-up has drawn to a close, with manager Stephen Kenny not having his contract renewed after a disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, although the Wrexham defender is convinced the foundations he has put in place will pay dividends.
Republic of Ireland’s James McClean has turned his back on international football (Niall Carson/PA)
Speaking after the game, he said: “I’m going to call it how I see it. There is so much ability here. These lads are young – that’s not making excuses for them. International football is a whole different level.
“These will get better with experience and with that experience, I’ve no doubt that down the line, these lads will bring the glory days back – and when I say glory days, I mean qualifying for major tournaments.
“They just need to believe in themselves because the ability is there, it’s just getting that consistency and doing it every single game, and I’ve no doubt that will come with experience.”
McClean knows what it takes to qualify for tournaments having represented Ireland at both Euro 2012 and at France 2016, too.
It was at the latter that the Republic secured one of their most significant victories, a 1-0 win over Italy in LilleRead on belfasttelegraph.co.uk