Former Derry star 'over the moon' after his Euro dream comes true
After months of speculation surrounding whether or not he would be included in Giovanni Trapattoni's squad for the European Championships, Sunderland winger James McClean said he was "over the moon" to make the cut yesterday.
The 23-year-old Derryman has been in sparkling form since making his debut for the Black Cats in December and made his international debut in a friendly against the Czech Republic in February.
After Trapattoni's announcement, the former Derry City player said: "I'm over the moon. It's really the stuff of dreams.
"I think I've done really well so far, but all I've been concentrating on is my form for Sunderland. I think I've performed consistently so far, and thankfully, I've been noticed.
"To be picked for my country for a major championship is really a dream come true and I can't wait to link up with the squad now."
His rise to the highest level in the game has been remarkable, considering he had been plying his trade in the League of Ireland last year.
McClean, who has pictures of himself as a youngster donning the green jersey hanging on the walls of his Creggan home, added: "As a child, all I wanted to do was play football, especially for my country.
"You never imagined that you actually would, though, and it was a real pleasure to hear my name being talked about when I began doing well at Sunderland.
"That is probably why this means so much to me.
"Making my debut at the Aviva (against the Czech Republic) is something I'll always remember, not only because of the reception or the occasion, but because it was a massive achievement for myself."
It has been a memorable year for McClean, who recently claimed the Sunderland Young Player of the Year award, as well as earning a new contract that will keep him at the Stadium of Light until 2015.
However, he still has ambitions to play a major role at the Euros.
"I believe in my own ability and I always have.
"I'm hoping to get a chance in Poland, because I think I can bring something to the team. But it is an honour to be included and I'll be doing everything to help my country do as well as we can," said McClean.
"I was thinking I would be getting a break after the end of the season, because I've never had a break for the last couple of years. Needless to say, though, I'm actually delighted I'm not getting a break this year, for all the right reasons."