Belfast Telegraph

Door to Euro finals still ajar for McClean

By Damien Spellman

Marco Tardelli has refused to close the door on James McClean's chances of forcing his way into the Republic of Ireland squad for the Euro 2012 finals.

The 22-year-old Sunderland winger has been a huge hit in the Barclays Premier League in recent months to propel himself into Giovanni Trapattoni's plans for tomorrow night's friendly against the Czech Republic in Dublin.

Trapattoni has indicated that former Northern Ireland Under-21 star McClean will be involved at some point, although having left him out of the initial party, his chances of making the plane for Poland and Ukraine in the summer remain uncertain.

What is not in any doubt, however, is that the former Derry City midfielder has a future at senior international level.

Asked about McClean's hopes of forcing his way into the squad for the tournament, assistant manager Tardelli said: “James McClean is a good player and I think for the future, he is good.

“But maybe it is possible if a player is injured — like at this moment, we have three or four players injured. Everything is possible.

“We have in our heads the players, but now we have discovered other new players and we have time to decide.

“Friendly matches are very important to see new players and to understand if they can go or not to the Euros.

“But I think these players are for the future.”

However, asked further if McClean's only chance of being included was a rash of injuries, Tardelli added: “I don't know, I'm not saying that.”

McClean’s new international team-mate Aiden McGeady admits he has seen little of the Derryman, but has heard only good things about him.

McClean, of course, would be in direct competition with McGeady for a place in the team, but that does not faze the older man at all. He said: “It's the same at club level. There are always players vying for the same position in international teams.

“If you have a player who's wanting to take your place, of course you need to up your game.

“I try to up my game anyway, but obviously if I do, people will say it's down to the fact that someone is breathing down my neck, but we will see what happens.

“I am looking to improve and striving to do better with Ireland anyway.” Trapattoni admitted in the wake of qualification via a play-off victory over Estonia in November that he would keep faith with the men who booked the Republic's passage.

However, in opting to take a look at both McClean and 20-year-old Everton defender Shane Duffy, who also played for Northern Ireland before opting for the Republic, this week, he is continuing his search for new talent.

Tomorrow's game will be the Republic's last before they begin their preparations in earnest with pre-tournament friendlies against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Hungary.

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