JAMES McClean insists it will be a ‘great honour’ to walk out in front of 80,000 people at the Stade de France, representing Ireland and his hometown in the Group E opener against Sweden on Monday evening.
The former Derry City man is delighted to be involved in his second major tournament for Republic of Ireland and is anxious to banish memories of Euro 2012 in Poland/Ukraine when they get their campaign underway in Paris.
The Creggan man is one of 10 survivors from the horror show in Poland when Giovanni Trapattoni’s troops returned home with the joint worst Euro record after defeats to Croatia (3-1), Italy (2-0) and a 4-0 demolition by Spain.
McClean was handed just 14 minutes at the end of the final group game against eventual winners, Spain and it was an experience which, he claims, damaged his confidence.
However, having played a major part in Ireland’s qualifying campaign this year, McClean goes into this tournament with confidence.
He was joined on the plane to France by fellow Derry man, Shane Duffy who is one of four central defenders in the panel. And McClean insists it’s a significant achievement for the city to have two Derry men selected in the final 23 man squad to represent their country.
To be one of 23 players from the whole country selected to play at the Euros, and for there to be two Derry men, it’s a great honour.James McClean
“Growing up I always wanted to play football for my country,” he said. “So to be one of 23 players from the whole country to be selected to play at the Euros, and for there to be two Derry men, it’s a great honour. I’ve never hidden how proud I am of being from Derry and being Irish. I’m sure Shane (Duffy) is the same. For two Derry men to get down to the final 23 players is something special.”
McClean has experienced a whirlwind couple of months since the English Premiership drew to a close in May.
He’s had to pencil in a stag and his wedding date before meeting up with the Ireland squad for its final warm-up games.
With his honeymoon on the backburner until after the Euros, he claims his wife, Erin, has been very understanding as he focussed on the Euros.
“It’s been pretty hectic,” he said. “A lot has happened in such a short period of time. To be fair Erin has been brilliant. She understands that football is the bread and butter. She would have loved to go on honeymoon after the wedding but there’s always after the tournament.
“She’ll be at the tournament herself so even that alone will be a great experience for her.”