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Trapattoni defends selection choice

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Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni (pictured) believes he was right to leave James McClean on the bench against Croatia

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni (pictured) believes he was right to leave James McClean on the bench against Croatia

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni (pictured) believes he was right to leave James McClean on the bench against Croatia

Giovanni Trapattoni has defended his decision to leave rising star James McClean sitting on the bench as Ireland slipped to defeat against Croatia.

The Italian opted to replace left-winger Aiden McGeady eight minutes into the second half of their 3-1 reverse in Poznan. But rather than turning to specialist McClean, who won rave reviews for his performances with Sunderland during the second half of last season, he asked striker Simon Cox to line up in the Spartak Moscow man's place.

Trapattoni had anticipated the question and was ready for it when it arrived at Ireland's Gdynia training base on Monday, and he said: "I was waiting for this question. Remember when you asked me why five strikers? I said Cox is also a winger and he can also play in a three as an attacking striker. Remember when you said this?

"Cox is one of the strikers but also at his club, can play right or left. He is also a striker in fact and in the past, has scored goals.

"Our wingers yesterday were not too often in on goal. I ask you, how many goals has McGeady scored? How many goals has (Damien) Duff scored? They are our wingers.

"You don't remember? Also me. This is important because at that moment, we needed someone in that position who could also score. Remember also against Italy? Remember Cox scored from this position? He's a good player, Cox."

Whatever the merits of the 25-year-old West Brom striker, there is a genuine excitement in Ireland about McClean, the 23-year-old former Derry City midfielder who only made his senior debut for his country as a substitute in February.

Trapattoni decided to include him in his final 23 for Poland and Ukraine, but remains to be convinced that he has the experience to do what he does best under the glare of an entire continent.

The 73-year-old said with a smile: "You are friends with James, no? I have a duty. It would have been his first [competitive] game. When there are senior, experienced players in this situation, maybe there is tension. You can understand how much more tense a young player can be.

"It's important we give them a quiet opportunity, not when we need their performance under pressure. It's a heavy weight on his shoulders. McGeady is one of our best players, and Damien Duff the same. His time will come in the future."

PA