Sports Digest: James McClean thrilled over Euro chance


Sunderland winger James McClean is ready to take the European Championships by storm after his dream call-up to the Ireland squad.

Derry-born McClean was the biggest winner of all when Giovanni Trapattoni announced his 23 man squad for the Euros on Monday afternoon.

McLean said, “I’m over the moon. It’s the stuff of dreams. I think I’ve done really well so far, but all I’ve been concentrating on is my form for Sunderland.

“I think I’ve performed consistently so far, and thankfully, I’ve been noticed. To be picked for my country for a major championship is really a dream come true and I can’t wait to link up with the squad now.

“As a child, all I wanted to do was play football, especially for my country. I think that is probably why this means so much to me.

“Making my debut at the Aviva against the Czech Republic is something I’ll always remember, not only because of the reception or the occasion, but because it was a massive achievement for myself.

“I believe in my own ability and I always have. I’m hoping to get a chance in Poland, because I think I can bring something to the team.

“But as I said, it is an honor to be included and I’ll be doing everything to help my country do as well as we can. I was thinking I would be getting a break after the end of the season, because I’ve never had a break for the last couple of years.

“But I’m delighted I’m not getting a break this year, for all the right reasons.”

McClean was still trying to come to terms with it all as he celebrated the news on Monday.

“It’s been a fantastic year for me in football terms. Breaking into the Sunderland first-team was a huge step and then to make my debut for Ireland was just amazing,” he said.

“I’ve had an incredible few months, cementing my place in the team and acclimatizing to the

Premier League, and just recently I won the Sunderland Supporters Young Player of the Year award, which was a huge honor.

“To now be representing Ireland at a major championship is simply the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Ireland boss Trapattoni also expects McClean to make a big impact at the tournament and compared him to Italian legends Alessandro Del Piero and Toto Schillachi after confirming his seat on the plane to Poznan.

Trap said, “Del Piero was on the bench for Juventus at 17-years-old. I said, ‘Sandro, go on the pitch.’  After four minutes and 30 seconds, he scored a goal. I said to myself, ‘He will have a great career.’

“There is the moment when someone is lucky. A couple of months ago, McClean took the ball, a defender tackled him but he still had the ball, another came but he kept it again and he scored the goal.

“He is not only lucky but persistent. He has scored goals and is confident. May God be on his side and be like Schillachi.”

Trapattoni has no doubts that McClean deserves his place in the Ireland squad.

He said, “At this moment McClean is playing well. He is young like the others. He has a good personality and is physically strong.

“He has improved. I saw him getting strong in the first games. Now he can score and has grown his personality. He can give us energy. He can be important in the second and third game in the group and he has the time in the future.”

Everton defender Seamus Coleman is the big loser at the squad announcement after he was placed on stand-by for the finals along with goalkeeper Darren Randolph, Paul McShane, Paul Green and Andy Keogh.

Trapattoni added, “I had the very difficult task in choosing this 23-man squad. Several players have proven their abilities to us during the qualifying campaign, and we are thankful to all who have played a part. However, we are happy with our choices.

“The stand-by list consists of very capable players who we would be happy to call upon if needed.

The game against Bosnia in the Aviva Stadium will be the beginning of our Euro 2012 journey, and it is important for the players to feel the energy from Irish fans before we go to our training camp.

“We will look to emulate the attitude and performance that brought us qualification, and push our limits further as we prepare for this tournament. We will be focused as we enter this important time.”

“The three aims are to recognize our limits, work to improve them and to have the belief that we can achieve and to never give up.

“Let’s not forget that we have arrived here through the team spirit and the collaboration of the players. We have no Messi, Ronaldo or other creative players. We have a strong team with organization and good balance.

“It has not been easy to choose players for the squad because we have many good players who deserve to be here. Many other players deserve to be here because they allow us to qualify. I will not forget them.”

Ireland squad: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall); John O’Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Stephen Ward (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Sean St. Ledger (Leicester), Darren O’Dea (Leeds), Kevin Foley (Wolves); Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Keith Andrews (West Brom), Keith Fahey (Birmingham), Darron Gibson (Everton), Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolves), James McClean (Sunderland); Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long, Simon Cox (both West Brom), Jon Walters (Stoke).