James McClean, a football player, has expressed gratitude to his hometown for providing him the courage to pursue his footballing aspirations.
On Monday against Gibraltar, the Creggan-born star earned his 100th cap for the Republic of Ireland.
He is the eighth player in Republic history to win 100 caps.
McClean said to BBC Radio Foyle, “If it wasn’t for what I learned growing up in Creggan, then I wouldn’t be where I am now.
A celebration honouring McClean’s 100 caps will take place later today at the Derry estate, on the street where he originally developed his footballing prowess.
“I’ll be there, and it’ll be lovely to speak with and see the locals again,” he said in an interview with The North West Today show.
“Creggan is my home, and I’m proud of that,” he continued. They are pleased with me too.
They feel invested in my profession, which means a lot to me. I’m one of them, which is a very grounded way to be. I appreciate everything from Creggan.
It’s not the first time Creggan has commemorated one of its famous footballers.
Barcelona has a Messi mural, Naples has a Maradona artwork, and a Central Drive wall in Creggan has a massive McClean mural.
He still thinks the tribute to be surreal.
“I’ll never get accustomed to passing the Creggan mural while walking. I used to kick the ball around the Creggan shops as a child, and now I’m perched on a wall.
“Walking by every day is surreal but also very special for my family.”
McClean, aged 34, has had a long career in England after leaving his hometown club Derry City. He has played for Sunderland, Stoke, Wigan Athletic, and West Bromwich Albion.
It hasn’t been a career without its share of difficulties though; vitriol hurled towards the 34-year-old is widely known.
It’s “different scale” than what other athletes confront, in his perspective. He said that his upbringing had given him the tools to handle the worst of it.
“Most of the time, it’s just water off a duck’s back. You are an outcome of your surroundings. Creggan is resilient and sturdy. I am the same way myself.
Ireland’s newest football centurion is “in a good place right now – and content”.
And he’s not ruling out a return home to where it all started.
“I’ve always been open that I want to end my career at Derry City. At the minute there’s no timeframe for that.”
He added: “You never rule out things because you don’t know what’s around the corner”.
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