Lure of home proves too much as McPhail exits Hillsborough

Stephen McPhail
Stephen McPhail
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Stephen McPhail has given up the possibility of returning to Wembley in the FA Cup to move back to Ireland.

The 34-year-old Sheffield Wednesday midfielder yesterday signed a one-year deal to join Irish Premier League side Shamrock Rovers.

The former Leeds United and Barnsley maestro was captain of the Cardiff City side which reached the 2008 final where they lost to Portsmouth.

But with the Owls just 180 minutes away from a semi-final date at Wembley, McPhail has opted to head home to Ireland.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time with Sheffield Wednesday, it’s a fantastic club and it was a pleasure to play for them,” said McPhail, whose Owls contract was due to expire next week.

“I’ve only been here for a few months, but I really felt part of the place and I wish everyone at the club nothing but the best.

“(Head coach) Stuart Gray has been great with me and everyone can see the impact he has made.

“He has everyone onside and the players have responded to the way he works.

“He is certainly the man to take the club forward, in my opinion.”

McPhail had been at Hillsborough since last summer, making 14 appearances, but has been on the periphery since Gray succeeded Dave Jones as boss.

The chance to be reunited with his family in Ireland was too tempting to reject, with Shamrock’s season kicking off next month.

“It’s been hard being away from the family and not seeing them every day,” said McPhail.

“That was a massive influence in this move, and Shamrock have some excellent young players.

“Hopefully I can pass on my experience to those lads for the benefit of the club.”

McPhail is the second Owls midfielder Gray has lost inside 48 hours.

Jose Semedo was stretchered off in Tuesday night’s defeat to Wigan with a broken leg.

With the loan arrival of Gary Gardner – who has joined from Aston Villa – the profile of Wednesday’s midfield is constantly changing.

The Owls started the season with David Prutton and Giles Coke as the central partnership, while Seyi Olofinjana and McPhail also played their part before both departing.

Kieran Lee has excelled since being converted from full-back, and looks likely to be paired with Gardner or Coke – the latter after serving a three-match ban – for tomorrow’s FA Cup fifth-round tie with Charlton.

Gray also has Rhys McCabe and Paul Corry competing for a midfield berth.

The loss of the hard-working Semedo for a minimum of six weeks leaves a huge gap to fill.

“It is devastating news for Seme, and devastating news for the club,” said Gray.

“We are going to miss Seme; his application and professionalism to the game is fantastic.

“It’s a clean break, we are just checking on ligament damage.

“We have got Gary Gardner in from Aston Villa, but that was teed up before Seme’s injury.

“I have seen a lot of him, he trained with us (yesterday) so hopefully he will come into contention on Saturday.

“He’s a different type of player (to Semedo), he is a goalscoring midfield player and (yesterday morning’s) training session has shown that.

“He has quality in training, fingers crossed he can take that into games. We are grateful Aston Villa have allowed him to come out and get some football.”

Gray hopes to bring in a Premier League centre-half eligible to play in the Cup tomorrow.