The heroic winger spoke to Off The Ball about the already infamous night in Cardiff and the goal he scored to send Ireland into the play-offs.
Though players and fans alike are still buzzing over the win against Wales that sent Ireland into the World Cup play-offs, the man of the hour in James McClean has been able to take it all in. The West Brom player scored the only goal of the game to help the boys in green finish second in Group D.
The Derry man dropped in to Newstalk’s Off The Ball podcast to relive the greatest night of his career to date. The 28-year-old revealed that proving the doubters, many of whom he claimed were in the Irish media, wrong made the victory that much sweeter.
“Obviously after a defeat like that [against Serbia] it hurt very badly, but we still had a very good chance of qualifying,” he stated.
“I think the way the media reacted in a way they wrote us off and they gave the manager a lot of criticism and the players criticism.It was a nice feeling to prove a lot of people wrong. It was kind of an added bonus on top of everything else. Our own people, our own media wrote us off, ‘this one’s for you do you know what I mean?’
“We were written off. Especially after the Georgia and Serbia games, knowing we had to go to Wales and win, a lot of people wrote us off, gave us no chance. We went there and did the job, did a great job, and I think we celebrated fittingly.”
On his emotions in the game itself following the second-half goal, McClean exemplified the cool-headedness that was necessary and called-for by manager Martin O’Neill prior to the clash.
“I just remember after the goal saying to the lads, make sure we don’t drop to the edge of the box, sit in, and just invite them on us. Maybe I wouldn’t have been like that 4 or 5 years ago. I’ve matured since then.
That’s a dangerous game to play. After the goal, it just felt like an eternity until the final whistle. The back four especially, and the goalkeeper, deserve immense credit, to hear that final whistle was a special feeling.”
McClean and co. will find out their play-off opponents next Tuesday afternoon, and they’ll be facing one of Denmark, Switzerland, Croatia or Italy.
In this weeks episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast we reflect on Ireland’s fantastic result in Wales, discuss the future of Irish football with Joe Gamble and analyse the latest League of Ireland Premier Division action.