The Airtricity League is by no means known as a contributor when it comes to footballers for its national team, but after Keith Fahey, read James McClean.
The Derry born winger has declared for the Republic after rejecting a call up to represent Northern Ireland. “It was a blow seeing Irish League players being called up before me to the Northern Ireland squad, but having got the call I was relieved,” McClean said in the Belfast Telegraph. “However, it’s always been my dream to play for the Republic and hopefully that will become a reality now that I’m going to be a Sunderland player.” This was McClean speaking in August 2011 and now that he is a Sunderland player; his dream may well come true.
He is a player who is quite like the Robbie Brady, who we featured in week one, but is more comfortable out wide left. He began his career playing with Derry City, where he made 73 appearances and scored 18 goals. His £350,000 move to Sunderland, triggered a call up to the Northern Irish Squad in the IFA’s mind, but it triggered much better thoughts in James’ mind if you’re a Republic fan.
The exciting winger is yet to prove himself on Wearside, but his exciting performances for Derry and his seven appearances as a youth player for the North show some signs of greatness, while his performances at the Dublin Super Cup may have sealed the deal in Sunderland’s eyes. That tournament did field some criticism from within the league in Ireland, but it has seen Daniel Kearns and James McClean move across the water, as well as massive interest in Daryl Kavanagh of St Patricks Athletic and Derry full back Daniel Lafferty too.
The manager who signed McClean for Sunderland, Steve Bruce, has recently been sacked and proud Northern Irish man Martin O’Neill has taken over. This can be viewed two different ways for McClean. O’Neill could snub the Northern Irish born Republic star, or he could embrace his young talent and nurture him to becoming a top player like he did with Aiden McGeady at Celtic. The experience and fair nature of the former Wycombe, Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa manager would lead me to believe the latter.
If McClean can race his way into the Sunderland side from the bench, then we may see a new talent emerge for the Boys IN Green. Of all the players reviewed so far, and still to be reviewed, I feel that James McClean is the rawest, but has the potential to be exciting for the Republic beyond 2012.
Follow Sunderland AFC winger James McClean on twitter @JMcC19.