Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long impressed by James McClean


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Striker Shane Long is backing the Republic of Ireland's wingers to give manager Giovanni Trapattoni a major selection headache ahead of the Euro 2012 finals.

Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady are fixtures in the 72-year-old Italian's starting line-up, with the likes of Stephen Hunt and Liam Lawrence having provided solid back-up in the recent past.

However, the emergence of Sunderland's James McClean as a genuine contender to rival Trapattoni's big guns has left Long and his fellow frontmen drooling.

The West Brom striker said: "It's brilliant. They are obviously top-quality players, and seeing him with my own eyes this week in training, James, he can deliver a ball from anywhere.

"You know when he gets it, you just have to make a run and he will find you.

"We have different options on the wings and it's a problem for the manager coming up to the Euros."

McClean, 22, was handed his senior international debut in last night's 1-1 friendly draw with the Czech Republic having already made an impression with his new team-mates on the training pitch at Malahide during the days leading up to the game.

The Derry-born player, who opted to represent the Republic rather than Northern Ireland, received a warm welcome from a crowd of 37,741 at the Aviva Stadium when he was introduced as a late replacement for McGeady.

Long said: "It was brilliant. He's flying at Sunderland at the moment, and for him to pledge his allegiance to Ireland obviously means a lot to the Irish fans.

"It's nice to give him that confidence going through. He's a great player and hopefully he continues the way he is playing for the rest of the season."

On the night, Ireland emerged with a draw after being second best for long periods as Long's club-mate Simon Cox came off the bench to cancel out Milan Baros' opener with just four minutes remaining.

Trapattoni, with one eye firmly on the finals - in which his side will face Croatia, Spain and Italy in Group C - started with his strongest available team and asked skipper Robbie Keane to play a slightly withdrawn role behind lone striker Long.

In the event, his players were served with a timely reminder of how tough a task they could face in Poland and Ukraine by their fellow qualifiers.

Long said: "They are obviously a good side. They have a few big players in their team and they were going to be a good test for us.

"They play with five in midfield and we need to be able to play against that with the teams we have in our group, so it's a good learning curve for us and a good test before we go to the Euros."