James McClean backs under-fire Ireland boss Stephen Kenny claiming there are 'positive signs'

REPUBLIC OF Ireland's draw against World Cup hosts Qatar proved a bitter sweet night for James McClean who celebrated his 80th international cap by ending his goalscoring drought for his country.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 10:19 am
James McClean fired Ireland into a first half lead against Qatar.

However, Qatar's early second half equaliser denied Stephen Kenny his first victory as Ireland boss after six months in charge and both the manager and McClean faced some difficult questions in the post-match interview.

Kenny claimed 'perspective is needed' and while he accepted criticism for the shock 1-0 loss to the 110th ranked country in the FIFA world rankings, the former Derry City boss believes the 'future is bright' for the Irish team.

And when asked what the mood in the Ireland camp had been like leading up to last night's friendly in Hungary, McClean admitted the result against Luxembourg had 'hurt' the players but he's backing Kenny to turn things around, insisting there are 'positive signs' from recent performances.

"First and foremost I can tell you, wholeheartedly, that it hurts us more than it hurts anyone because we're the ones responsible," claimed McClean who was a key part of the Derry City squad which won the League of Ireland First Division under Kenny in 2011. "Saturday night, it was a real low, there's no getting away with that It hurt, it hurt a lot!

"We have to pick ourselves up. Ultimately we were the ones on the pitch and it just wasn't good enough from us as players. Since then we got here Sunday and the attitude has been spot on."

Ireland and Everton captain, Seamus Coleman was pictured delivering a team talk on the training pitch ahead of Tuesday night's friendly and McClean admitted the skipper and the manager had addressed the performance against Luxembourg and galvanised the squad.

"The captain said a few words, the manager spoke and as a group we got ourselves together and said, 'look, we have to live with that and we are the ones, going forward, that need to change that.

"I thought, tonight, in large parts we were very good and you could see what we were trying to do. The goal was a very poor goal for us to concede and that's the things we need to cut out to be an even better team.

"Tonight there's positive signs and I think against Serbia there were positive signs as well. We just need that first win and hopefully when we get that first win that will kickstart and the rest of the wins will follow."

The Derry man believes it's going to take time for Kenny to transform the team and for the players to adopt a more 'pleasing on the eye' style of play.

"We’re really trying to get the ideas from the training ground, the manager’s philosophy out there. It’s going to take time, we’ve got new players. Hopefully we can get that first win soon, because when we do things will look a lot more brighter going forward.

"Their goal was a very poor one from us to concede, they're the things we have to cut out to be an even better team. But I think tonight there were positive signs, there were positive signs in Serbia as well, we just need that first one.

"Look, we’ve been a one style nation for as long as I can remember. The manager has got his own ideas, I’m pretty sure as the manager and we all agree, so far, the results haven’t been as we want them to be.

"It would be nice for the manager, the nation, to get that win. Hopefully when that first one comes, the rest will follow. Hopefully after Saturday, after Luxembourg, this is a turning point."

His goal which gave Ireland a promising start to the game against Qatar was his first since his memorable strike against the Welsh to secure a World Cup play-off spot in October 2017, ending a run of 24 appearances for his country without finding the net. Now the Stoke City man hopes it can kickstart 'a nice little spell' for both club and country.

"It was obviously nice," he said. "My last goal was the goal in Wales so it's been a bit of a while coming but I think I've proven over the years I can score goals for Ireland.

"Hopefully that will be a little kickstart for me to add a few more. The more players chipping in with goals the more it's obviously better for the team. Hopefully it's the first of a nice little spell."