JAMES McClean’s international debut against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night, fashioned an emotional moment for Derry City boss, Declan Devine, who was in the Aviva Stadium.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And the Brandywell boss insisted that McClean’s meteoric rise to stardom has also given everyone associated with the “Candy Stripes” a major boost.
“I attended the Czech Republic game and I must admit when I watched James come off the substitutes’ bench to do his warm-up, I got very excited.
“But when he received that standing ovation from 34,000 when replacing Aiden McGeady, I felt a wee bit emotional given that we’ve enjoyed coaching and helping develop the player into a top Premiership footballer,” added Devine.
“His progress at Sunderland and now his international debut has given us all a boost and I think it’s also important to note that other Derry City players are not a million miles away from achieving what’s required to become a top player,” declared Declan.
“James’ rise to prominence has been nothing short of sensational, it’s been brilliant for himself, for his family and, of course, for Derry City. He’s deserved everything he has achieved to date and what’s equally impressive is the fact that he’s taken everything in his stride.
“Never one to get carried away, James continues to conduct himself in a professional manner and given his workrate and commitment, I expect him to develop into a top class player.”
Devine also noted that the player would “never forget his roots” no matter where he goes in the future.
“I think James will develop into a role model for all young Derry City players who may harbour hopes of playing football at the top level.
“After defeating Arsenal in the FA Cup recently, James left the Stadium of Light for the airport after that game and, believe it or not, attended our training session on Sunday at 9.00 a.m. the next day in the Brandywell.
“And it wasn’t the first time he has visited his former team-mates for a training session this season.
“He continues to show his passion and hunger for the game and, of course, he never forgets where he has come from,” insisted Devine.
“Not My Decision”
When questioned by the international media following Wednesday night’s game, McClean remained true to Devine’s description of him.
Asked if he wanted to go to the Euros with Ireland in the summer, he replied: “That’s not my decision, it’s the manager’s decision. For any player, it’s a dream to play for your country at a major tournament.
“I will continue to try and play well for Sunderland week in, week out and come the summer, you never know,” answered the 22-year-old.
Did he feel any nerves when he entered the fray?
“When the crowd reacted, it was a case of goosebumps. It was a tremendous reception. It’s an honour to play for my country and it’s something I have dreamed of growing up as a fan.
“That reception was something that will remain with me for the rest of my life,” he concluded.