Belfast Telegraph

James McClean to lead charge as he hits the half century mark


By Cian Tracey

James McClean is in line to captain the Republic of Ireland in Friday morning's (1am) friendly against Mexico when he wins his 50th cap for his country.

The Derry native made himself available to Martin O'Neill for the game in New Jersey and the manager admitted that he would recognise McClean's impressive milestone.

"You know what, I think that it would be worthwhile doing it if that's the case," O'Neill said yesterday before the squad flew to America.

"It is his 50th, isn't it? Yeah, if he starts the game I'm sure he will be captain.

"For the 50th for a start and because he's got that great discipline about him which he just exudes whenever he plays.

"James will think he's nailed on for it. James would think that."

Winning his 50th cap is quite an achievement for the 28-year-old, who only made his debut four years ago, but such is McClean's commitment to the cause, a low-key friendly in the US still appeals.

Ulsterman O'Neill's relationship with the West Brom player has been well-documented but, even after he handed him his Premier League debut as Sunderland boss in 2011, he is still impressed by his "infectious attitude".

"I wasn't really surprised (he wanted to play against Mexico). In fact I'd have been surprised if he didn't want to do it. But when I asked him, he said he wanted to get his 50th cap," he said.

"I hadn't realised he had played 49. But he wanted to get it and he wants to get as many as he possibly can, which is great. And his attitude has been brilliant. In the way that Jon Walters was very much our player for the Euros in the qualification stages, James has taken on that mantle.

"He's matured as a player. He's actually thinking about his game."

O'Neill revealed he may go with three at the back ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Austria on June 11.

"I felt this would give us the chance to experiment, maybe play three (at the back)," O'Neill added.

O'Neill said that Eunan O'Kane and Shane Duffy both emerged unscathed from the minor car crash they were involved in on their way back from Derry to meet up with the squad at Abbotstown.

"The two lads are training. They are a little bit sore," he said.

Aiden McGeady will link up with squad when they return from America ahead of Sunday's friendly against Uruguay at the Aviva.

Belfast Telegraph

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