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Four Republic of Ireland internationals, led by Stoke City’s James McClean, who started their careers in the League of Ireland (SSE Airtricity League) have chipped into a fund which has been set up to support the players who are now facing hardship due to the current crisis.

McClean, who played for Derry City, has been joined by Everton’s Séamus Coleman, Enda Stevens from Sheffield United and Long in donating €25,000 towards the fund. Coleman began his career with Sligo Rovers while Stevens played for both St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers before moving to Aston Villa. Long started his career with Cork City before making the move to Burnley.

All four are clients of Integrity Sports, a company set up by former Ireland international Graham Barrett, and the situation is bad there with Sligo becoming the first club in the league to lay off all their players and staff on a temporary basis.

McLean said: “It’s a sad situation. The League of Ireland is where I came from, it’s where I came through. It’s been good to me and the other lads and when Graham pitched this idea to us, it was a no-brainer. It’s not going to solve the crisis but hopefully it’s a small gesture that can go a long way and maybe it can help.”

He added: “I have been there myself. It isn’t a very rewarding league. If you have a career in the League of Ireland, the chances are you’re going to have to work afterwards. There’s more money over here and I know that I’m fortunate. I don’t take the position I am in for granted. I’ve been on the other side of it.

“I follow the league religiously still and I saw the news with Sligo Rovers. It’s a tragic thing to see. I saw the Drogheda thing a couple of days (they have deferred payments) and unfortunately it’s just going to get worse. Getting people through the gates is what the clubs rely on.”

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