O’Neill hails Sunderland winger McClean after QPR display

James McClean
James McClean
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MARTIN O’Neill hailed the approach and attitude of rising star James McClean after a match-winning display from the Sunderland winger.

The 22-year-old celebrated the clinching of a new long-term contract during the week with a starring performance on Saturday which earned him a fistful of man-of-the-match awards.

And O’Neill said afterwards that he was impressed at how grounded the ex-Derry City wide-man has been since breaking into the side in December.

“James has determination and ability and is trying to make the most of his opportunity,” he said.

“He’s not in awe of the whole thing – he doesn’t mean to be disrespectful – it’s just the way he is and it’s standing him in good stead.”

Of the left-winger’s performance against QPR, the manager commented: “He was magnificent – constantly at their defence and, if anything, he’s getting more confident.

“He had an assist for the first goal, scored the second and had a part to play in the third – absolutely terrific.

“It’s interesting because you think that, with the energy he puts into the game – his efforts to get back and help defensively – he would run out of steam, but he keeps going.

“At the moment, I don’t think he wants it to end.”

McClean’s form bodes well going into tomorrow’s cup tie against Everton and O’Neill knows it. “His confidence is up and he feels as though he can beat his full-backs,” he mused.

“I think he can only get better.”

And O’Neill would not be surprised if the level-headed Irishman was to end a dream season by winning a call-up to the Euro 2012 finals.

“My personal view is that there’s no reason why he shouldn’t go to the Euros,” said the Sunderland boss.

“The last time the Irish manager saw him for us might have been the West Brom game – which wasn’t a good game for any of us.

“But I think James will be hard to ignore.

“Giovanni Trapattoni has done a wonderful job with the players he has and will want to show loyalty, but, if there’s a space, then James would be a good choice.

“He’s such a willing worker that if you’re a full-back you must be delighted to have him on the wing.”