Saturday 18 November 2017

Martin O'Neill backs captain McClean to lead from the front in New Jersey

31 May 2017; James McClean of Republic of Ireland during a press conference at the MetLife Stadium, New Jersey, USA. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
31 May 2017; James McClean of Republic of Ireland during a press conference at the MetLife Stadium, New Jersey, USA. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

MARTIN O'Neill says that James McClean will be "thrilled" to captain the Republic of Ireland for the first time in the friendly against Mexico in New Jersey.

O'Neill will have a new-look side in an unusual 3-5-2 formation with McClean the first Derry man to captain the Republic.

"He wanted to come on the trip and he wanted to get a cap, every opportunity he wants to take because that’s what he wants to do," said O'Neill before last night's training session at the MetLife Stadium, adding that McClean had become more grounded of late.

"I think in his personal life, that has settled down and it’s at least three months since he’s had another tattoo so it’s really, really good," the Irish boss joked.

"He knows how important those things have been. The great thing about James is he feels important in the team, particularly in this World Cup run that we’ve had.

O'Neill confirmed that McClean will captain the side and Cyrus Christie will start in a new-look formation, with Shane Duffy also likely to start.

"I don't think it should cause us a problem, Cyrus plays in that position he is an attacking player, James can play that position too and it's a matter of the centre halves being comfortable out on the touchlines when they have to do that. That's not a problem," added O'Neill

"Shane Duffy needs to play. If he has any thoughts on the Austria game, he has to participate. I think he feels great at this minute, this is someone who this game is really geared for. 

“I've said to most of the lads to use every opportunity, every minute that they have on the field of play to try to do something."

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