Saturday 3 December 2016

The phoney war is over, now players must wait for Euro 2016

Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30

James McClean celebrates after scoring his side's second goal from the penalty spot (SPORTSFILE)
James McClean celebrates after scoring his side's second goal from the penalty spot (SPORTSFILE)

James McClean took the first penalty of his international career and was delighted and relieved when he saw the ball hit the net for the Republic's second goal against Slovakia.

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McClean, whose next commitment is to try and dent the salvation hopes of his Irish team-mate John O'Shea in the West Brom v Sunderland game on Saturday, now hopes he has staked a claim for Euro 2016.

Manager Martin O'Neill has 23 places to fill on the plane to France and those who played against Switzerland and Slovakia have to hope for a thumbs-up from the Irish boss.

There will be limited opportunities to make a late impression in the last warm-up matches against Holland and Belarus in May, so this was an important few days for the players.

In the absence of strikers due to injuries, McClean got a chance to shine up front alongside Shane Long and relished the opportunity.

"I played there for a while last season for Wigan. Tonight, I played up as a two with Longy, a great player, he'll run all day.

"Thankfully we caused them a number of problems," said McClean.

The two strikers each scored from the penalty spot, but given the propensity of forwards to take every chance offered, there was some surprise when Long handed over the second penalty duty to McClean.

Pressure

"I think Shane took a knock and was a bit sore for the second one.

"I've never taken a penalty before so, it being my first one, there was a bit of pressure there.

"Luckily it's gone under the keeper and gone in," said McClean.

Team skipper John O'Shea and replacement goalkeeper Darren Randolph were saddened by Rob Elliot's knee injury.

"We wish him a speedy recovery. In these games, or in training, anything can happen. The season he's having, it's extremely disappointing for him.

"We're all going back to our clubs now and focusing on our clubs. The manager is fully aware that anything can happen, and you could get an injury in the last game of the season.

"That's why these games are good in a sense, you can see players coming in and showing what they can do," said O'Shea.

Randolph could hardly believe Elliot's misfortune.

"I don't know how long he's out for, but he's been on fire for his club and he was picked tonight. It's horrible to get injured any time but I know how hard he's worked. I've grown up with him since I was 15, when we were at Charlton," he said.

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