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Ireland captain Seamus Coleman backs James McClean for milestone

Seamus Coleman (right) can’t wait for James McClean to reach his century of Ireland caps© SPORTSFILE

Sunday World

They come from neighbouring counties and so it is no surprise that Donegal man Seamus Coleman is willing on Derry’s James McClean to reach the fabulous mark of 100 caps for Ireland.

McClean is six short of the century, and Ireland have four games left in 2022, two Nations League matches next month and two friendlies in November.

If he can play any part in each of the four games, McClean would need to don the green shirt just twice in 2023 to join the exclusive club – right on 100 caps with Damien Duff.

Yet Coleman’s good wishes will play no part in Stephen Kenny’s selection decisions – sentiment cannot come in to it.

Kenny’s tenure as manager of Ireland has always been about rebuilding towards qualifying for the 2024 Euros and nobody will be getting Irish caps because of a mark out there in the distance, they will be getting them only if the caps are part of a means to an end – a successful outcome to next year’s Euro campaign.

“It’ll mean a lot to James and I hope I’m there in the dressing room when he gets there,” says the Irish captain, speaking at a SPAR Better Choices event.

“I’m sure he will. He’s so proud to play for Ireland. Also, you just don’t just get 100 caps. He’s put so much into his whole career.

“He’s been so dedicated, so motivated and looks after himself like you wouldn’t believe. I think in the last 18 months he’s been playing really good football.

“For him to get 100 caps, he might not want to talk about it now and jinx himself but I know that it would mean the world to him.

“He’s someone who gives everything for the Irish shirt. He’s played with broken wrists. He’s had a knee injury. And he’s an example for lads coming through of what it means to play for Ireland.”

Unfortunately for McClean, ‘poppy season’ is still a bit away but looming in late October and early November, the time of the football season when he takes grief, from the terraces and on social media, for his refusal to wear the fund-raising emblem of retired members of the British Armed Forces.

Poppy

“James put out a statement a few years ago about his views on the poppy and I think anyone who has got any problem with James or whatever needs to read that,” added Coleman.

“James McClean is as honest as the day is long. He’s a good guy, a good person, good family, someone who doesn’t deserve to be getting any of the stuff that gets said to him.

“Listen, he’s a proud Irishman but he’s a really, really good person, first and foremost. We’re trying to stamp out any kind of discrimination across the board and, of course, James McClean is part of the Football League and part of that as well.

“Of course, we want James to be protected as well. James is someone I’ve got a very good relationship with and I would talk to him a lot. But, you know, no one deserves the grief he gets, him, his family, his kids. That’s clear to be seen.”

Everton went into yesterday’s home Premier League match against Nottingham Forest in desperate need of points after losing their openers to Chelsea and Aston Villa and earned a draw with a late equaliser.

Hailed

At the end of last season, Toffees manager Frank Lampard hailed Coleman as the best captain he ever worked with. But Coleman is realistic enough to know that he may not be always able to stay at the club he has served so well for so long,

Indeed, with the retirement of West Ham’s Mark Noble last May, Coleman is now the PL’s longest-serving one-club player.

So can you see yourself playing for any other club? “I don’t know, is the honest answer,” says the Killybegs man.

“I want to be of value to wherever I’m at. I don’t know how long the legs have got left in them – but for me I want to play football.

“I want to feel I’m value. I don’t want to be here for the sake of it. I’d never say never. I don’t know what the future holds. One thing I know is that I’ll be coming in to Everton training every day to give my very best.”

And as for Ireland? “First and foremost, as a player, you’ve got to believe we can qualify for Euro 2024.

“We’ve had ups and downs along the way. I feel like the manager has bedded in a lot of new young players who aren’t going to be ready overnight, but are now starting to build their caps bit by bit.

“When things have clicked for us, we’ve done well and won. I’ve got full belief in the manager and full belief in the lads coming through.”

Seamus Coleman was speaking at an event to promote the SPAR Better Choices campaign, promoting healthy eating options.


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