Monday, February 20, 2012

James McClean honoured after Ireland call-up

Sunderland midfielder James McClean has been called into Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland squad for the friendly at Lansdowne Road on 29 February.

McClean tweeted after hearing the news of his international call-up: "Absolutely buzzin and honoured to be called up to represent my country... best feeling there is."

The Derry born winger has made a sensational starts to his Sunderland career and had been expected to be included in Giovanni Trapattoni's initial squad when it was announced earlier this month, but will now take his place along with Paul Green in a 26-man squad.

McClean was signed from his home-town club for £350,000 last summer by O'Neill's predecessor Steve Bruce, but it was not until the new manager's arrival at the Stadium of Light that he was given the opportunity to make an impact on the senior stage.

McClean made an eye-catching first-team debut as a substitute in the new manager's opening game, a 2-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Blackburn, and after a further two appearances from the bench, was handed a start against Manchester City on New Year's Day.

He has remained in the team ever since and has contributed four goals as well as some fine wing play to Sunderland's impressive run of form, which saw them beat Arsenal 2-0 on Saturday to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals and extend their record under O'Neill to 10 victories in 15 games.

Asked recently about McClean's international potential ahead of this summer's Euro 2012 finals, O'Neill said: "He is more than worth having a look at. I think he can force his way into the squad.

"Of course, the players who have got the Republic of Ireland there would deserve great credit for that, but there is always room for an emerging talent."

McClean's chance may now come earlier than he initially thought having been presented with the opportunity to impress the Italian in training at Ireland's Malahide base ahead of the clash with the Czechs.