James McClean wears his heart on his sleeve and his love for Derry in ink on his body. Speaking on this week’s Irishman Abroad podcast with Jarlath Regan, amongst the topics in the wide ranging interview, the Ireland international talked about being back home in Derry towards the end of his playing career and after retirement. McClean also spoke about the tragic death of his friend and former teammate at Derry City Ryan McBride.
“I always said that I’d start my career at Derry and I want to finish at Derry,” said McClean in the interview with Jarlath Regan. “What age I go back at, I don’t know but I want to go back at an age when I’m actually able to give something.
“I don’t want to go back for show and I can hardly move or offer anything. I don’t want youngsters running by me and I can’t keep up.
“I’m a home boy,” said 28-year-old McClean who has the ‘Free Derry’ corner tattooed on his leg. “I have always said I want to live back in Derry when I retire. For me it would be ideal to play my last season or two at Derry.”
Derry City football club is very much at the heart of the city, which is why the sudden death earlier this year of inspirational Candystripes captain Ryan McBride was such a shock.
“Ryan’s death hit everyone very hard. He is the same age as me. We had a huge game at the end of the week against Wales. Credit to the manager (Martin O’Neill), he was brilliant and let me go home to say my goodbyes. The way I saw it, Ryan was a leader; he was a fighter.
“I had a huge game on the Friday against Wales,” said McClean who wore the number 5 jersey in the international match to honour McBride who wore the same number at Derry City. “I wanted to go out and put in a performance that does him proud, does justice to the kind of player and man that he was. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well.
“He was a mate of mine but he has a family and a girlfriend who have lost a son, a fiancé, a brother. There are in a lot worse situation than I am in. If I’m beating myself up, I have to think how they are feeling.”
You can listen back to the full interview here and amongst the recent interviews from the extensive back catalogue is one Jarlath Regan carried out with Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman (available here).