AIDEN McGEADY has been backed for a Republic of Ireland recall by Sunderland manager Jack Ross even though it could hinder his side's League One promotion bid.
The former Celtic and Everton winger scored a brilliant winner to keep Sunderland in touch with the top two and bury Wally Downes' brave AFC Wimbledon FA Cup heroes at the Stadium of Light.
The 32-year-old has now scored seven league goals for Sunderland, and been involved in the majority of their goals since his return from injury in September. His winner yesterday ensured the Wearside club kept up their promotion challenge as they play catch up to leaders Luton Town.
McGeady was dropped from the Ireland squad by Martin O'Neill for the disastrous Nations League campaign but new boss Mick McCarthy has kept tabs on the winger who is eight caps short of a century.
Ross, who played against McGeady in the early stages of his career for St Mirren, said: "I think he still has a desire to play for his country but selfishly we don't want to miss any more games between now and the end of the season, so if you are looking for me to push him to be called up, then I'm going to say he has played terribly.
"But seriously, I know he is on 90-odd caps and like any player on that number getting to 100 caps is a big inventive and I certainly don't think he has closed the door on it either and I am sure if he keeps playing as he is doing then he will get that opportunity. Just don't write that!
"I've played against Aiden so I know he creates a lot of worry for defenders and the expectancy is that he'll do it every single time. That's what it's like because when the ball goes to him, we know he's got so much quality.
"It's quite interesting because sometimes if he has the ball taken off him, there's almost a cry of frustration from the fans because that expectancy is so high on him. But I do believe that if we can isolate him with people, then the majority of time he'll produce something because he's that good.
"There is no doubt how good a player Aiden is. I think he's enjoying himself and enjoying the contribution he's made and you can see that. I've really enjoyed working with him.
"Players are all different, they all have their own challenges and character but he cares. He cares about his football and his standards so if he has a poor game and doesn't go past people it bothers him.
"He's not just a talented player. You don't have the career he's had in the game without a drive and determination to win games and get the better of your opponent. Players can show that and it manifests itself in different ways. He doesn't speak publicly that much, but he has that in him. You don't get 90-odd caps for your country and play in the Champions League without that."