James McClean retaining hope of Euro 2012 place with Republic of Ireland

 

Republic of Ireland new boy James McClean returned to Sunderland determined to force his way into Giovanni Trapattoni's Euro 2012 plans.

The 22-year-old winger was handed a senior international debut as a 79th-minute substitute in last night's 1-1 friendly draw with the Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium.

Trapattoni has hinted strongly that his squad and indeed his team is already selected, but as long as there is a chance, McClean is hoping he can continue to make an impression.

He said: "That's not my decision, it's the manager's decision. For any player, it's a dream to play for your country at a major tournament.

"I'll just continue to play well for Sunderland week in, week out and come the summer, you never know."

McClean's arrival as a replacement for Aiden McGeady was greeted by an ovation from a crowd of 37,742 to leave the youngster in little doubt as to the esteem in which he is held by his countrymen.

He said: "It was goosebumps, it was a tremendous reception. It's an honour to play for my country and something I have dreamed of growing up as a fan.

"That reception is something that will be with me for the rest of my life."

Ireland were trailing to Milan Baros' 50th-minute strike when McClean got his big chance, and they could not have complained after being outplayed for long periods.

However, they finished the game strongly and finally got their reward with just four minutes remaining.

West Brom striker Simon Cox, who had come on for skipper Robbie Keane with 71 minutes played, took Keith Andrews' pass in his stride and, after cutting inside defender Tomas Sivok, beat keeper Petr Cech at his bear post to snatch a draw.

Trapattoni, who started with his strongest available team, was happy enough with the result against a team which will also compete in Poland and Ukraine this summer.

He said: "We had an opportunity to look at other players, but also look at the result because that gives us confidence and gives us security about our system and attitude.

"I am happy because I didn't think it would be a walk in the park. This (the Czech Republic) is a strong team, they have very young and important players playing across Europe.

"We had a good reaction in the second half with personality, and we didn't let go of our willingness to play and be aggressive.

"They dominated us and we had a good reaction and deserved to get the draw. We increased our pressing and I am happy at the moment in the belief."

PA

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