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McGeady reaches promised land

NINE years and two months after he wore the green shirt of the Republic of Ireland for the first time, in an U17 friendly away to Italy, came vindication.

For Aiden McGeady, international football has often been a mixed bag - he had a two-year wait between his first senior cap and his competitive debut, a time when he was, in school terms, 'held back' to learn his trade in an U21 side that lost more games than they won.

But last night came the celebration. McGeady has, at times, tested the patience since he first gained a senior cap as a teenager under Brian Kerr in 2004, but the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign has been his own, McGeady the only player -- aside from Glenn Whelan - to appear in every game, though last night was the first time in the campaign that McGeady didn't start a match on the road to Euro 2012.

Starting the game on the bench - McGeady came on as a 58th-minute sub for Stephen Hunt, who had an indifferent game last night by Hunt's own high standards - was a blow for the Russian-based player and he admitted that being left out was a disappointment. But there are also benefits, as it's likely that McGeady will be the only Spartak Moscow player at the Euro 2012 finals.

"This has been a great campaign for me. I have played in every game and that's a massive boost for me. I think my performances have been good. I've set up a few goals with my assists so I am proud of that as well," McGeady told the Herald.

"It looks like I could be the only Spartak player at the finals. One of our strikers (Artyom Dzyuba) has just managed to get into the Russia squad for their last friendly so he could go to Poland and Ukraine with the Russians, but I may be the only one there from the club. And that would be a massive achievement.

"I'm delighted because I never hear the end of all that talk about me picking Ireland ahead of Scotland but this has justified all that, justified my selection at that time," added McGeady.

The Scottish obsession with McGeady shows no sign of ending -- the first question to Giovanni Trapattoni at last night's post-match press conference was from a Scottish hack who asked some dazzlingly stupid question which had no relevance to what Ireland had produced on the field in the preceding match or campaign.

But the fact remains that Scotland -- and Serbia, Romania, Switzerland and three dozen more European nations -- will watch the Euro 2012 finals from afar.

"It's very pleasing when you see all the countries that didn't make it, so many top teams didn't qualify and that shows how far we have come in such a short space of time," added McGeady.

"I have been involved with Ireland for a long time now and this is some turnaround from where we were a few years ago, and it's fantastic to be part of that. Every player in Europe wants to be part of a major finals, only 16 teams are there and we feel honoured to be there.

"We're just delighted to make the finals. The performance last night was a bit flat but that was always going to happen, with us having such a big lead from the first leg. We'd more or less qualified in Estonia on Friday so last night was just about finishing things off," said McGeady, the Moscow-based player unhappy at losing his record of starting every game in the campaign.

"Of course I want to play in every game. The manager pulled me aside in training and said he was resting players and would change it at half time, maybe that was just to make me feel good. Then I saw the team and it was almost exactly the same as Friday, so I was a bit disappointed. I just want to play in every game," he stated.

"But we are there now and we'll see who we get in the draw, I hope we can do ourselves justice out there. Today isn't the time for thinking about possible opponents. We're just on a high from qualifying and I'll worry about the draw when it's made next month."