Keith Gillespie hits out at James McClean for making 'excuses' that Catholics aren't welcome playing for Northern Ireland

Former Manchester United winger has blasted his fellow Ulsterman for opting to play for the Republic
Keith Gillespie has become the latest member of the Northern Irish football community to lash James McClean for opting to play for the Republic.

Speaking on US radio, the winger said McClean took advantage of the system in the north in order to aid his chances of playing for the south.

“I’m of the firm belief that if you’re born in Northern Ireland you should not have the option of playing for the Republic," Gillespie told Beyond The Pitch.

He added: “James McClean is a prime example. He had no intention of ever playing for the Northern Ireland senior team and he’s made that clear but he used the Northern Ireland system to get into a position where he could defect to the Republic."

Derry-born McClean enraged Northern Irish supporters by electing to play for the Republic; he also indicated that Catholics were not welcome when playing for Northern Ireland.

His comments about Catholics were dubbed as 'excuses' by Gillespie who earned 86 caps playing for Northern Ireland in a 14-year international career.

“He made some excuses in relation to being a Catholic, but that’s not an issue with the Northern Ireland squad.

“You look at some of our greatest and most capped players who are Catholic — people like Pat Jennings, Mal Donaghy, Martin O’Neill and Gerry Armstrong. They are all hugely popular people in Northern Ireland.”

The Longford Town winger added: “I think McClean was clutching at straws with those remarks and trying to come up with some sort of excuse.”

Gillespie's remarks follow a statement issued by the IFA which said McClean's comments about Catholics not being welcome for NI were 'disappointing.'