Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Reserve Showing Propelled McClean; Hidden Gem on the Brink of Irish Euro 2012 Squad

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Reserve Showing Propelled McClean; Hidden Gem on the Brink of Irish Euro 2012 Squad

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil Cameron

THE reserve match report on Sunderland's website from December 8 last year contains a throwaway line that is a rather fine example of a backhanded compliment.

A fine 6-3 win over Manchester United's second-string played out in front of 646 hardy souls was described as: "an excellent overall team display with James McClean prominent amongst the supporting cast."

With Ryan Noble scoring four goals and Titus Bramble managing 78 minutes of action, the performance of the Irishman who had yet to make his firstteam debut was, understandably, not the main focus of a match watched by Martin O'Neill, less than a week after he became manager at the club.

However, the lankly left winger McClean caught the eye of O'Neill on that blustery day despite being in his own words "terrible for the first 15 minutes because I was trying too hard to impress "and found himself on the bench for the very next match against Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light.

This is where he has spent his season up to that point, however, this time he was thrown on and played a huge role in what was a vital 2-1 win.

It was a result that kick-started Sunderland's season, which had looked one that would be spent in a relegation fight.

Who could have guessed where the boy from Derry would lead from that moment on? Certainly, nobody would have thought he would end up going to the European Championships this summer. However, Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has revealed McClean has a "90 to 99% chance of making his final squad" partly because of his form and partly because an un-named senior Irish player has informed the Italian he won't be available for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

From Eppleton Colliery FC's ground to facing World and European Champions Spain, Italy and on June 10 Croatia in Ireland's first match in a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup in the Far East.

But any standards this is a quite remarkable turnaround for McClean who arrived from Derry City on a pounds 350,000 deal in the summer and was apparently "one of the future" according to the-then Sunderland manager Steve Bruce. …

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