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O'Neill: McClean received death threats

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has defended James McClean after the player was subjected to isolated boos around Craven Cottage during the club's 3-1 win at Fulham on Sunday.

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McClean, 23, who came on as a substitute after 70 minutes, received the boos due to his request to wear a shirt without a poppy for last week's match against Everton.

The winger is from the Creggan estate in Derry where six people were shot by British military during Bloody Sunday in 1972.

"James will deal with it," O'Neill said of the boos. "I think it is probably to do with the issue of last week. It's a free choice in this world. James has lived with a lot of things. He's getting death threats as well now so that doesn't help."

It is understood O'Neill was referring to the incident in which 29-year-old Mancunian Codey Lachey posted images of 5.6mm bullets on McClean's Twitter timeline, while saying he "wanted him dead". On Sunday, however, Lachey - who described himself on the social network as a "6ft 3 ex-army lad" - said he no longer felt that way.

The former soldier was quoted in Sunday's Derry Journal as saying "I wanted him dead. But there's no threat from me to James McClean now, although I can't be held responsible for what other people may do."

Lachey had also sent a threat against McClean to Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht.

"Too right he deserves to be shot dead," Lachey wrote, "+ body dragged past the cenotaph! I think he's a f***ing disgrace. I know I'll end up in trouble and maybe in prison over this but I'm willing to go to court, that's how strongly I feel."

Elsewhere, McClean has also been criticised by Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney, due to his decision to represent the Republic of Ireland rather than the country of his birth.

Feeney, 31, wrote in Belfast's Sunday Life that such 'cringeworthy' incidents as the poppy made him glad McClean was not an international team-mate.

"If ever there was a guy who hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it has to be him," Feeney wrote. "He's becoming better known for his behaviour off the pitch than for his considerable skills on it. It's a pity because he's obviously a talented player. At the same time, it makes me glad he elected to play for the Republic and not us.

"McClean's decision was an anti-British gesture, yet here he is making a very good living from playing in the Premier League in Britain. His action was a snub to the memory of brave men and women, his club and its fans who pay his wages."