James McClean will join up with the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad early to undergo a crash course in international football.
The 23-year-old Sunderland winger’s dream season reached new heights today when he was named in Giovanni Trapattoni’s 23-man party despite having played only a few minutes of senior international football.
But while most of his Barclays Premier League colleagues will not meet up in Dublin until May 20, McClean will arrive three days earlier along with players from the npower Championship to work with Trapattoni and assistant Marco Tardelli.
The 73-year-old Italian was in good form as he announced his squad and finally confirmed the news the nation had been awaiting when he included McClean.
Asked what he had said to the former Derry City man when he called him to tell him he would be going to Poland and Ukraine, he said, to some amusement: “‘James, you are in our list’.
“It was a surprise because I read in an Irish newspaper that he wasn’t in!
“I said, ‘I have seen you in many games, but can you come three or four days before because you can also improve.
“He can train with us and learn our system. In his club, he plays in one position and he has only played one game for us.
“Maybe we can look at other situations. He said ‘Thank you’, and he will come on May 17.”
Trapattoni has drafted in the exciting prospect after an exhilarating six months on Wearside in which he has gone from promising reserve to first-team regular.
However, while he has played as an out-and-out left winger for the Black Cats, Trapattoni will also consider using him on the right as he attempts to cover tried and trusted wide men Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady.
He said: “There are many examples of left-sided players playing on the right.
“I said to James if he can try to play on the right, it might open up the pitch.
“We want three or four days to work better to try this situation.”
But while there was joy for McClean, there was sadness for Wigan midfielder James McCarthy when it emerged that he had asked not to be selected after learning that his father has been diagnosed with cancer.
The 21-year-old said in a statement: “I have made the very difficult decision to withdraw my name from selection from the Euro 2012 squad following the diagnosis of my father with cancer and an ongoing requirement for treatment.
“I have discussed this with the manager. He was very understanding and I thank him sincerely for that.
“I take this opportunity to re-affirm my complete commitment to playing for the Republic of Ireland.
“It is a huge honour and source of great pride for me and my family.
“Despite not being present, I would like to wish the manager and my team-mates every success at the tournament and hope that Irish fans can understand the reason for my decision at this difficult time.”
There were few surprises in the squad announced by Trapattoni at the Aviva Stadium, although with midfielders Darron Gibson and Keith Fahey both doubts because of injury, he has put Darren Randolph, Paul McShane, Paul Green, Seamus Coleman and Andy Keogh on stand-by.
Ireland open their campaign against Croatia before tackling the daunting prospect of reigning World and European champions Spain.
Should they emerge from their opening two fixtures with their hopes of making the second stage of the competition still alive, they would head into an epic encounter with Trapattoni’s native Italy.
His record against the Italians with the Republic is impressive. The sides drew home and away in the last World Cup qualifying campaign and Ireland enjoyed a friendly victory over the Azzuri in Liege at the end of last season.
Realistically, Trapattoni’s men are likely to have to beat Croatia to stand any chance of qualifying, and if they do so, he admits the Italy game could be crucial.
He said: “If we win the first game, maybe yes. The second game is against Spain, so if we win the first game, maybe the third game can decide.”
Ireland squad for Euro 2012: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall); John O’Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Stephen Ward (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Darren O’Dea (Leeds), Kevin Foley (Wolves); Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Keith Andrews (West Brom), Keith Fahey (Birmingham), Darron Gibson (Everton), Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolves), James McClean (Sunderland); Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long, Simon Cox (both West Brom), Jon Walters (Stoke).
Stand-by: Darren Randolph (Motherwell), Paul McShane (Crystal Palace), Paul Green (Unattached), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Andy Keogh (Millwall).