With key players on the sideline, Giovanni Trapattoni could turn to James McClean


In roughly six months, Ireland will play their first game of the European Championships against Croatia.

Until that time, Giovanni Trapattoni's eyes, as well as the eyes of most Irish fans, will be watching over the quality of performances that Ireland's key players can produce in the Premier League and Championship.

Unfortunately for Trapattoni, Ireland's three most important players are not on the field much lately.

Robbie Keane's season has come to a close after his LA Galaxy side won the MLS title. Keane is on the verge of joining a Premier League club with Aston Villa heavily touted, but as things currently stand he is just another body training with Tottenham.

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Shay Given is still out after his long-term hamstring injury. Given should return and is such a veteran presence that he should be well prepared by the time the Championships come along.

What is the biggest worry for Trapattoni however is Damien Duff's recent fall from grace in Fulham. Duff hasn't featured much lately after suffering an injury earlier in the season. Duff's absence in the team has allowed Bryan Ruiz to step up and become a prominent figure in the side. Duff's prospects of regaining his starting place don't look good.

Despite being a key player, Duff cannot be guaranteed of his place without regular first team football entering a major tournament.

His place could be up for grabs and there is a new found spark playing for Sunderland who is attempting to force the coaching staff's hand.

Twenty two year old James McClean may have been born in Derry, Northern Ireland, but he has already declared himself for the Republic's national team.

McClean is an old-fashioned winger who has emerged recently for Sunderland with some stellar performances on the left wing. The former Derry City player has starred in his first five appearances for his new club.

He has shown a desire and determination to beat fullbacks repeatedly before whipping the ball into the box on first opportunity. With the athleticism to get up and down the wing for ninety minutes, there is no doubt that the physically gifted winger will be appealing to Trapattoni.

Despite being a stocky player, McClean shows great balance and quick feet as well as a good understanding of the position. Unlike most young players, his poise should forgo Trapattoni's skepticism that comes with trusting younger players.

As Damien Duff's struggles look set to continue, James McClean could usher in a new era on Ireland's wing earlier than expected.

McClean has, to an extent, come from nowhere to establish himself in the Premier League. Providing that he can continue his level of play over the course of the season, McClean could well find himself on the plane with the Irish national team.

Even better, he could find himself on the field too.

Tweeting @Cianaf

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