James McClean has further fuelled the row over his decision to chose the Republic of Ireland ahead of his native Northern Ireland.
The 23-year-old this week closed his Twitter account as a result of the fresh abuse he received following his selection in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Euro 2012 finals squad.
However, speaking in Dublin yesterday, Derry-born McClean repeated claims that he never felt comfortable playing for the North at junior level.
He said: “I think any Catholic would be lying if they said they did feel at home, seeing all those flags [Union Jacks] and hearing the songs and chants.
“For me, I didn’t feel a part of it. It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but it was just a stepping stone in my career.
“When I signed for Sunderland, my dream of playing for Ireland became realistic.”
McClean has enjoyed an excellent second half to the season since breaking into the Black Cats’ first team in December, and his elevation to international level has come as a major bonus.
However, the midfielder insists he is not going to Poland and Ukraine simply to make up the numbers.
McClean said: “I’m in the squad and I’m delighted to be in the squad. But I’m not going to be here just to make up the numbers and leave it at that.
“We have the training camp and the friendlies coming up and I want to show him that I can leave my mark and give him something to think about when it comes to selecting the team for the first game.
“Hopefully, I’ll give him a dilemma.”