DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: James McClean - a real champion on many levels
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It is a mark of the esteem in which James McClean was held by his Ireland team-mates that they afforded him that honour as the curtain was drawn on his international career after 103 caps on Tuesday.
James is a champion, literally, having propelled Derry City to the First Division title in 2010, before a long career in Britain that included spells in the English Premier Division and a First Division championship medal-winning season at Wigan Athletic in 2021/22.
What memories he served up over 103 games for Ireland. His participation in the Euros in France in 2016 and his goal against Wales in Cardiff that sent Ireland into a World Cup play-off in 2018 will live forever in our hearts.
James has proven himself a champion in so many other senses: of causes to which he has been a quiet benefactor; of autism-pride, so ably demonstrated when he spoke out about his own diagnosis this year.
He has faced down near relentless anti-Irish bigotry from some sections of the terraces in Britain without ever compromising on his own beliefs that were articulated so well in 2014 when, once again, he faced an onslaught over his refusal to wear a poppy. Creggan to his marrow, he never forgets where he comes from. He is a credit to himself, his family, his people and his country.