REPUBLIC of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has given the clearest indication yet that Sunderland winger James McClean will feature at the European Championships.
The Italian had been wary of considering fresh faces to his squad for this summer’s tournament in Poland and Ukraine after pledging to keep faith with those who secured Ireland’s first qualification to a major competition in a decade.
But McClean’s form at Sunderland has been impossible to ignore and the 23-year-old now looks set to be rewarded with a place at the Euros despite only making his international bow as a late substitute against the Czech Republic in February.
McClean continued his meteoric rise in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Bolton after his 25-yard free-kick marked his sixth goal in 24 starts since breaking into Sunderland’s first-team under Martin O’Neill.
Ireland number two Marco Tardelli has continued to watch McClean regularly – including Sunderland’s draw with Wolves a fortnight ago – and Trapattoni has signalled that the former Derry City man is firmly in his thoughts.
Trapattoni said: “In my head, I know my 23 players. McClean has a 90 to 99 per cent chance of going to Poland. Of the rest, I cannot say too much. Some may pick up an injury.
“McClean plays with a bit of luck. Sometimes he doesn’t play well but gets the opportunity to score a goal.
“Some managers think about these lucky players. But I don’t think about him because he is lucky, but because he wants to make the squad.”
Trapattoni will announce his 23-man squad next Monday, with McClean’s Sunderland team-mates John O’Shea and Keiren Westwood also expected to be included.
O’Shea continued his comeback from a calf injury with a second successive start against Bolton, while Westwood will act as back-up to former Newcastle stopper Shay Given during the summer.
Ireland take on Croatia in their Group C opener on June 10, before tackling Spain (June 14) and Italy (June 18).