Sunderland winger James McClean will be rewarded for his loyalty to Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland with an international call-up next month.
The Derry-born youngster has resisted attempts by new Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill to switch back to his native land.
Capped up to under 21 level by the North, McClean has officially switched allegiances under the FIFA ruling imposed by the Good Friday agreement and isn’t for turning.
Set to be watched by Trap’s assistant Marco Tardelli when Sunderland play at Peterborough in the FA Cup on Sunday, McLean is in line for a senior Irish debut next month.
“James will be in the Ireland squad for the friendly against the Czech Republic at the Aviva,” confirmed a source close to the Irish management team.
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“Giovanni has been excited about him ever since he announced he wanted to declare for the Republic last August.
“The move to Sunderland and his recent promotion to the first team has only strengthened his claims for a call-up but the recent speculation has nothing to do with this.
“Like some other young players, James will be named in an extended squad when the team returns to action against the Czechs.”
Keen to gatecrash Ireland’s Euro 2012 party in Poland next summer, McLean is ready to impress Tardelli against Peterborough today – with Trapattoni certain to watch on television at his Milan home.
“I have made my decision to play with the Republic and I am happy with it – I am following my dream,” said McLean who also revealed on Twitter that he has received the "usual" abuse from disgruntled Northern Ireland fans.
“Michael O’Neill has made me contact with me twice since he got the job but I will not be changing my mind.”
Keen to bolster the Northern Ireland squad when he officially starts work on February 1st, O’Neill will attempt to stop other Ulster born players defecting to the South.
“We will actively look to broaden our playing pool with Northern Ireland,” declared former Shamrock Rovers boss O’Neill as McLean slips from his clutches.
“That will be done via the eligibility rulings or by fast tracking younger players through the system but we need to develop as many options as possible and as quickly as possible.
“My views on our players switching to the Republic have been well documented this week but it is up to me now to ensure it stops and that our team is seen as their natural home. That’s what I will be trying to do.”