James McClean bids Irish goodbye: "I've had the time of my life."

James McClean bid farewell to the Irish fans at the Aviva Stadium tonight. (Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile)
James McClean bid farewell to the Irish fans at the Aviva Stadium tonight. (Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile)

McClean received a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 66th minute of the 1-1 friendly draw against New Zealand and Ireland players and coaching staff gave the winger a guard of honour as he left the pitch for the final time after a lap of the ground at the final whistle.

His wife Erin and four kids and a large contingent of family and friends and members of his youth football team Trojans watched on as he made his 103rd and final international appearance.

Afterwards McClean stood by his decision to call it a day on the international scene and claims he has 'no regrets' about his career with the national team having played in two major tournaments.

"It is over," he confirmed. "For whatever reasons I'm calling it a day, I think it's the right time. I've no regrets. People have been [saying to me], I would've been teared up, I would've been emotional, I would've been crying but I look back on it all with so much happiness," said the former Derry City winger.

"There's no need to cry. There's no need to get emotional because I've lived an absolute dream and I've loved every single minute I've played here. I've no regrets. I've had the time of my life."

Last June he was presented with his 100th cap in a memorable occasion for the 34 year-old in front of his family and while he was disappointed not to end his Irish career on a winning note, he thoroughly enjoyed his night as he made more 'special memories' in an Irish shirt in front of over 25,000 appreciative supporters.

"It was special. Look, I've never had to doubt the support I've had in this stadium. It's been absolutely phenomenal from the second I stepped on the pitch in 2012 until now. I've never had to question that. They've been top class. It's just a shame I couldn't end on a win but I won't dwell on that.. I enjoyed the night for what it was. There were a few special memories made tonight."

Having his kids on the pitch was another memorable moment for the Wrexham player and he hopes his son James Junior, a keen footballer, can go on to emulate his father and represent his country in the future.

"They stayed up late, they love it," laughed McClean when asked about his children joining him on the pitch. "It gets them off school. They love the whole hype around it and the whole buzz and I'm thrilled for the little fella to get on the pitch because he's football daft, he loves every minute. He thrives on it and hopefully some day down the road he gets to make his own memories here."

After 11 years during which he's played under four different managers, McClean admits he will miss the Ireland camps and what he regards as his second family.

"It shows you the kind of people they are," he said of his guard of honour. "It's a brilliant dressing room and I've loved working with every single one of them, it's been fantastic. I think you'll really miss being in camp and being around the lads. It's a big family, all pulling together to do the best for your country and it doesn't get any better than that."

READ MORE: Erin McClean: My most favourite memories are of James playing for Ireland