'James McClean plays with emotion anyway' - Martin O'Neill backs winger to be ready despite grief
Martin O'Neill is convinced James McClean will be ready psychologically for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Wales despite a difficult week off the field.
The 27-year-old West Brom midfielder was devastated to learn of the death of close friend and Derry City skipper Ryan McBride at the weekend.
McClean was given leave to travel up to his native Derry from the Republic's base on the outskirts of Dublin to pay his respects to the family on Tuesday ahead of the funeral on Thursday morning, but O'Neill is confident he is now fully focused on Friday night's game.
The Ireland manager said: "James plays with emotion anyway. If there's anybody you can talk about wearing his heart on his sleeve, that's exactly it - almost literally.
"I don't have any problem with that. James is an emotional character, always has been. He was devastated because he knew the lad very well as he played with him.
"Having gone up to the wake, he is fully focused on the game tomorrow."
McClean has become an increasingly influential player in O'Neill's team, scoring twice in the 3-1 qualifier victory in Moldova in October and then claiming the only goal in a priceless 1-0 win in Austria in November.
His pace and trickery could prove key against the Welsh with dangerman Robbie Brady suspended and playmaker Wes Hoolahan among a catalogue of injured men.
That could also offer an opportunity to Everton winger Aiden McGeady, who will hope to win an 87th senior international cap after reviving his club career on loan at Sky Bet Championship Preston.
Asked if McGeady could be handed a free role to provide the creativity Hoolahan has in the recent past, O'Neill said: "I'm not so sure because even the very best of teams, people who were supposedly assured of a free role, actually do an awful lot of work anyway defensively in the very best sides.
"That is something that Aiden is trying to learn, but if he's capable of going past players, then that has got to be a benefit for us, and he is certainly capable of doing that.
"All he has got to do is go and look at some of the form he showed in the early stages of the Euro 2016 qualification. In that sort of form, he's devastating."