McClean gets Ireland call
Sunderland winger James McClean has been called into the Republic of Ireland squad for the friendly clash with Czech Republic later this month.
McClean, who has been in fine form for the Black Cats since being given his chance by manager Martin O'Neill, has been drafted in along with Derby midfielder Paul Green.
McClean had been expected to be included in Giovanni Trapattoni's initial squad when it was announced earlier this month, but will now take his place along with Green in a 26-man party for the friendly at the Aviva Stadium on February 29.
The Londonderry-born midfielder was signed from his home-town club for £350,000 last summer by O'Neill's predecessor Steve Bruce, but it was not until his compatriot's arrival at the Stadium of Light that he was given the opportunity to make an impact on the senior stage.
McClean made an eye-catching first-team debut as a substitute in the new manager's opening game, a 2-1 Premier League victory over Blackburn, and after a further two appearances from the bench, was handed a start against Manchester City on New Year's Day.
He has remained in the team ever since and has contributed four goals as well as some fine wing play to Sunderland's impressive run of form, which saw them beat Arsenal 2-0 on Saturday to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals and extend their record under O'Neill to ten victories in 15 games.
Asked recently about McClean's international potential ahead of this summer's Euro 2012 finals, O'Neill said: "He is more than worth having a look at. I think he can force his way into the squad.
"Of course, the players who have got the Republic of Ireland there would deserve great credit for that, but there is always room for an emerging talent."
Trapattoni indicated in the wake of qualification for Poland and Ukraine that he would be keeping faith with the men who had taken Ireland to the finals. In announcing his squad on February 10 after weeks of speculation that McClean would be included, he stuck to his guns.
However, he later revealed he had spoke to the Sunderland 22-year-old, who had earlier been granted clearance to represent the Republic rather than his native Northern Ireland by FIFA after exercising his right to do so, and told him his time would come.
Trapattoni said: "I think all the squad deserve to come with us. They believe us and they know us. We have four or five other names because we have no time to change. One is McClean.
"I spoke with him and I said, 'Congratulations, James, I wish you to come with us.' We now have insurance that he can play with us, and this is important. He said, 'When you decide, call me up'. I told him 100% he will be with us for the future. Now, I'm looking to consolidate."
However, McClean's chance may now come earlier than he initially thought having been presented with the opportunity to impress the Italian in training at the Republic's Malahide base ahead of the clash with the Czechs.
McClean expressed his delight via Twitter. He tweeted: "Absolutely buzzin and honoured to be called up to represent my country... best feeling there is."