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Ireland targets strong finish

Midfielder Stephen Ireland is desperate to repay Newcastle's faith after belatedly making his debut.

The 24-year-old Irishman has been a frustrated bystander for much of the past two-and-a-half months after arriving from Aston Villa on loan in January with a knee injury and then picking up a thigh strain as he neared full fitness.

In all, he sat out the first nine game of his temporary spell on Tyneside, extending his wait for meaningful action after last playing senior football on December 6.

He finally got his chance in a black-and-white shirt 69 minutes into the club's hard-fought 0-0 draw with leaders Manchester United on Tuesday night, and is now determined to make up for lost time over the remaining five games of the Barclays Premier League campaign.

He said: "It's been really frustrating for me. I have not really had a manager who has wanted me to play and I have felt like an outcast for a while.

"It's nice to be treated normally for once. I haven't had that in a while. I have come here now and even through my injuries, they kept telling me, 'Listen, it's not a problem, just get yourself right'.

"The loyalty they have shown me, I am going to repay that as much as I can. It's been really frustrating, but it's all behind me now, thank God, and it's finally here.

"It's finally come around that I can play and I just want to finish the season strongly and try to benefit the team in whatever way I can."

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