James McClean has backed the Republic of Ireland’s new generation to fulfil their potential after calling time on his international career.

The 34-year-old won his 103rd and last Ireland cap in Tuesday night’s 1-1 friendly draw with New Zealand and bade an emotional farewell to team-mates and fans alike after a 11 and a half years in the green shirt during which he played at the finals of two major tournaments.

McClean may not be the only man whose time in the international set-up has drawn to a close, with manager Stephen Kenny now out of contract and not expecting an extension after a disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, although the Wrexham defender is convinced the foundations he has put in place will pay dividends.

Speaking after the game, he said: “I’m going to call it how I see it. There is so much ability here. These lads are young – that’s not making excuses for them. International football is a whole different level.

“These will get better with experience and with that experience, I’ve no doubt that down the line, these lads will bring the glory days back – and when I say glory days, I mean qualifying for major tournaments.

“They just need to believe in themselves because the ability is there, it’s just getting that consistency and doing it every single game, and I’ve no doubt that will come with experience.”

McClean knows what it takes to qualify for tournaments having represented Ireland at both Euro 2012 and ast France 2016, too.

It was at the latter that the Republic secured one of their most significant victories, a 1-0 win over Italy in Lille which set up a last-16 clash with hosts France.

McClean said: “That night in Lille when we beat Italy was… I’ve said this before, I wish you could bottle that because if you could bottle that and sell it, you’d be laughing. Absolutely phenomenal.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. From the second I stepped on the pitch against the Czech Republic in 2012, the fans here in the stadium have been absolutely phenomenal, home and away.

“That was something again that was very special. I pride myself on how your nearest and dearest, your team-mates, view you as a person and tonight that showed how they viewed me.

“I’ve struck up some great relationships with the lads over the years and it’s something that I will miss, the camaraderie around the squad and going into battle with these lads.”

McClean announced his decision to step back from international football last month and had no regrets about doing so after his final appearance.

He said: “I think this is the right time to go. Not many people get to go out on their terms. I’ve had the absolute time of my life. I’ve achieved so much. Beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve had my time.

“The lads were saying tonight, ‘why didn’t you cry? I would have cried’. But I don’t see the need to cry because like I said, I had the time of my life. I’ve had so many happy memories and it’s been an absolute honour.”

Matt Garbett ruined James McClean’s farewell party as the Republic of Ireland were held to an embarrassing friendly draw by New Zealand.

Both McClean – who was making his 103rd and final senior appearance for his country – and manager Stephen Kenny, out of contract on the final whistle and with seemingly little hope of an extension, might have hoped for a rousing conclusion at the Aviva Stadium.

But a paltry crowd of 26,517 saw NAC Breda midfielder Garbett cancel out Adam Idah’s first-half opener to claim a 1-1 draw on a night when Ireland, who have slipped to 58th place in FIFA’s world rankings table, were at times out-played by a side some 45 places below them.

A review of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, which ended fruitlessly for the Republic with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands, will be considered by the Football Association of Ireland’s board next week, but evidence of the progress Kenny believes has been made was in painfully short supply once again.

Ireland, starting with a flat back four, made an uncertain start as the All Whites enjoyed early possession in their opponent’s half, but as McClean and Celtic winger Mikey Johnston got the bit between his teeth down the left, they started to make an impression.

New Zealand defender Michael Boxall had to be in the right place at the right time to deny first McClean and then – from the resulting corner – central defender Shane Duffy, with the home side pinning the visitors back.

Kenny’s men continued to dominate possession but found space at a premium as the All Whites defended their box resolutely until the 28th minute when they were finally pierced, if with an element of controversy.

Sligo defender Nando Pijnaker felt he had been caught by Mark Sykes – making a first start for his country – as he dispossessed him, but his appeals for a free-kick went unanswered as the midfielder found striker Idah, who made no mistake.

The visitors might have been back in it seven minutes later when, after the Irish defence had struggled to deal with Tim Payne’s cross, skipper Chris Wood diverted Marko Stamenic’s shot wide with his knee as it sped across goal to the relief of goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Kelleher was called upon for the first time three minutes later when he clawed the excellent Sarspreet Singh’s curling attempt out of his top corner and he saw the same man fire into the side-netting after being released by Liberato Cacace in a strong finish to the first half by Darren Bazeley’s men.

The Liverpool goalkeeper departed at the break to be replaced by Mark Travers and the newcomer suffered a scare within four minutes when Singh picked out Garbett with a cross and saw the striker lift a shot wastefully over the top.


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Jayson Molumby fired just wide after being set up by Johnston and Duffy headed a McClean corner straight at goalkeeper Max Crocombe with Ireland responding, but they were rocked with 59 minutes gone when Singh again stretched the home defence and when the ball fell to Garbett on the edge of the box, he smashed it past the helpless Travers to level.

Singh tested Travers with a 64th-minute strike and Kenny chose that moment to make two significant changes, the first to replace Idah with Evan Ferguson and the second to hand McClean a standing ovation as he made way for Ryan Manning as his international career drew to a close.

Andy Moran was handed a senior debut as Kenny looked for inspiration, but Travers had to rescue defender Andrew Omobamidele after substitute Max Mata went for goal and substitute Ryan Manning prevented Mata from winning it at the death, while the final whistle came as a merciful release for the home fans.

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has urged his young hopefuls to learn from veteran James McClean after he announced his impending retirement from international football.

The 34-year-old Wrexham midfielder revealed his intention to end his time with Ireland after 102 caps, 11 goals and two European Championship campaigns following next month’s friendly against New Zealand on Thursday morning.

Hours later, international boss Kenny, who first managed the player as a youngster at Derry City, paid tribute to both his quality and intensity after naming a 24-man squad which did not include him for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Greece and Gibraltar.


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Kenny said: “He’s had a terrific career, James. Young Irish players can learn a lot from him, how he approached his career. Ireland was always at the forefront of his thoughts, it was always the pinnacle for him and it was always the most important thing, to play for his country. You had to respect that.

“From my point of view as a manager – obviously I managed him as a teenager, gave him his debut and then sold him to Sunderland. But people change in that period and obviously he’s a different personality then when I managed the Irish team (Derry) because he’s in his 30s by the time I take up the Ireland team, so he’s a different personality.

“But if there are any grey areas about who might play in the team sometimes and decisions are not made and depending on who’s available, he’s so forceful in his training performances, sometimes he gets himself in the team by just his sheer intensity in his training in the sessions.

“It’s hard to ignore him then, when someone trains like that, in the games.”

Derry-born former Sunderland, Wigan, West Brom and Stoke man McClean, who has repeatedly found himself at the centre of controversy over his decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on his club shirt, had earlier spoken of his pride at representing his country over 11 years.


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He said in a statement issued on social media: “It has the meant the absolute world and more to be able to pull on the green jersey with honour, step out onto a football pitch – especially at the Aviva Stadium – to represent our great country, standing singing Amhran na bhFiann ready to go out into battle with your fellow countrymen.

“Nothing has ever come close. I gave absolutely everything I had of myself to ensure that I did the jersey, the fans and the country proud, and know that I never took it for granted each time. I hope that showed.

“It will be heartbreaking not to be involved beyond this year, but I feel now is the right time to step aside without any regrets.

“I lived my own and every young Irish footballer’s dream – and represented this country with pride.”

McClean’s absence from the squad was not the only one of note, with Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher also missing after suffering a gash to his knee in training which required 12 stitches, while Sheffield United defender John Egan and Cardiff winger Callum O’Dowda are also unavailable because of injury.

However, Celtic winger Mikey Johnston and Cardiff forward Callum Robinson were included for the games against Greece in Dublin on Friday, October 13 and Gibraltar in Faro three days later.

Ireland’s hopes of qualification are all but over after Group B defeats by France and the Netherlands last month left them with just three points from a possible 15.

Squad: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Mark Travers (Stoke, on loan from Bournemouth), Max O’Leary (Bristol City), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Festy Ebosele (Udinese), Nathan Collins (Brentford), Shane Duffy (Norwich), Dara O’Shea (Burnley), Andrew Omobamidele (Nottingham Forest), Liam Scales (Celtic), Ryan Manning (Southampton), Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jayson Molumby (West Brom), Alan Browne (Preston), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Evan Ferguson (Brighton), Adam Idah (Norwich), Aaron Connolly (Hull), Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton), Callum Robinson (Cardiff), Mikey Johnston (Celtic).

Bradford reached the Carabao Cup third round by beating Wrexham 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Tyler Smith’s penalty inside three minutes handed Bradford the advantage but Will Boyle equalised to take the game to spot-kicks.

Dan Oyegoke’s effort was saved by Mark Howard, but Luke Young missed and James Jones’s penalty was stopped by Harry Lewis to send the Bantams through.

Bradford’s early spot-kick came when Aaron Hayden brought down Jamie Walker and Smith buried, the goalscorer being denied a second by Howard not long after.

In response Jake Bickerstaff’s effort landed inches wide on the quarter-hour, while Lewis kept out Ryan Barnett’s shot and Ben Tozer’s header in quick succession.

Brad Halliday blocked Sam Dalby’s header on the line as Wrexham went close, before Bickerstaff’s later low effort fizzed inches wide.

Emmanuel Osadebe curled a glorious effort over before the hour for Bradford and Halliday later squandered a one-on-one chance wide.

Boyle made the Bantams pay as he emphatically headed home Young’s corner with fewer than 20 minutes left as penalties followed.

Matt Derbyshire, Richie Smallwood, Adam Wilson and Halliday scored for Bradford, while Elliot Lee, Ollie Palmer and James McClean netted for Wrexham.

James McClean is banking on the Republic of Ireland’s big-game mentality to force them back into Euro 2024 contention.

Ireland belatedly registered their first win of the qualifying campaign at the third time of asking when they beat Gibraltar 3-0 in Dublin on Monday evening.

Coming after a hard-fought 1-0 home defeat by France and a less-impressive display in a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Greece in Athens on Friday night, victory was the very least they needed ahead of September’s trip to Paris and the Netherlands’ visit to the Aviva Stadium three days later.

Asked about the Dutch in particular, McClean, who won his 100th senior cap against Gibraltar, said: “I don’t want to create headlines and be disrespectful, but they seem to have a lot of very good individual players, but maybe as a team they are not where they want to be and hopefully we can exploit that.

“I actually think we perform better in the big games, as you have seen here against France.”

Realistically, Ireland will need to get the better of the Netherlands over the two fixtures if they are to stand any chance of escaping from Group B, and the odds remain heavily stacked against them despite Monday’s win.

They went into that game having been roundly criticised for their performance in Athens and with manager Stephen Kenny feeling the full force of a concerted backlash.

McClean, who provided assists for both Evan Ferguson and Adam Idah, said: “Nobody likes being criticised, that’s the way it is. No one likes it, but we’re not stupid. This is the game we are in.

“If you don’t perform and do well, criticism comes along with that, as does praise when you are doing well, so you have to take the bad with the good.

“We bounced back. It’s a massive win to take us into September and hopefully we can pull off one of those famous wins.”

Ireland boast famous wins over then world champions Germany and at Euro 2016, fellow aristocrats Italy in the recent past, but under Kenny have fallen heart-breakingly short, if only just, against Portugal and France.

However, McClean, 34, is confident the belief and spirit which contributed so much to those landmark victories has been retained by a new-look squad.

He said: “I don’t think that’s something that can ever be questioned, the togetherness in the Irish team.

“There is a lot of ability in those young lads. If you can get them playing with confidence, you are on to a winner. Hopefully they can create special memories for themselves.”

McClean added his own special memory on Monday when he completed his century and was presented with his 100th cap by President Michael D Higgins before kick-off.

He said: “Having my family on the pitch, the president of the association and of the country handing me an honour, the reception of the crowd, having the whole family there, the way the lads treated me this week leading up to it and how they treated me after the game… Look, it couldn’t have gone any better.”

James McClean has vowed to prolong his Republic of Ireland career for as long as possible after manager Stephen Kenny tipped him to follow in Luka Modric’s footsteps.

The 34-year-old old Wigan midfielder will win his 100th senior cap for his country in Monday night’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Gibraltar in Dublin, with the Ireland boss marking the achievement by handing him the captain’s armband.

Kenny voiced the opinion last week that McClean is so fit, there is no reason he cannot do what Croatia star Modric has done and play international football at the age of 37.

Asked if that was in his mind, McClean said: “Physically I feel great. I don’t feel I have slowed down too much. If I stay injury-free and I’m still enjoying it, if I continue to get picked, why not?”

Derry-born McClean won his first cap for Ireland as a substitute against the Czech Republic in February 2012 during his time at Sunderland, and was part of the squads which qualified for the finals of both Euro 2012 and 2016.

A winger by trade, he has scored winning goals in key World Cup qualifiers in Austria and Wales, but latterly has been used by Kenny as a wing-back.

He will join some of Ireland’s biggest names in reaching a century with only Robbie Keane, Shay Given, John O’Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Steve Staunton and Damien Duff currently ahead of him.

Speaking before Kenny confirmed he will start the game, McClean said: “To hopefully get 100 caps and join the illustrious names on that list will be pretty special, not just for my family, but everyone who helped me make that happen.”

McClean, who won his 99th cap as a substitute in Greece on Monday evening, will hope to reach his personal landmark in style after a bruising experience for him and his team-mates in Athens.

But for all the big nights he has enjoyed in a green shirt, McClean insists the honour of pulling it on in the first place represents the biggest thrill.

Asked what was his proudest moment on the international stage, he said: “Representing Ireland.

“Being able to do that just once was special. I’ve never hidden the fact of how proud I am to be Irish. To be given the opportunity to step on the pitch and effect games for your country, that’s what I’m proudest of.”

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