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McClean joy after getting stamp of approval

MAN of the moment James McClean boosted the Irish fans and also gave the coffers of Derry City a nice cash injection.

Everybody was a winner in the Aviva Stadium as the 37,741 fans went home happy that they had seen a bright new star arrive and a face-saving equaliser by Simon Cox.

McClean only got around 14 minutes of playing time, but he made his mark with the crowd who gave him a huge ovation. His senior debut means that Sunderland will pay an estimated £45,000 in an add-on to the £350,000 they paid for the 22-year-old last year.

But for the player, the moment he got the call to warm up and get on the pitch was sheer magic.

"I grew up a fan and to step on the pitch and get the reception I got was amazing. I got a bit of friendly banter about it in dressing-room, but the fans were great and any nerves I had just vanished."

Asked was it a relief to finally clinch his place with the Republic squad, McClean replied: "I wouldn't say it's a relief. It was just an honour to make my debut and now I hope to push on and get more playing time and more caps."

Damien Duff also backed McClean to make the final squad.

"He is having an exciting season at Premier League level so people want to see him pull on the green, the white shirt tonight. Hopefully, he'll make the squad for the summer," said Duff, who also reckoned Ireland will need to improve.

"I don't think we played particularly well," said Duff. "We probably made them look better than they are as well. It was a bit flat, but we'll be long enough together in the summer so there's plenty of time to work on things.

"We're not going to try something different at this stage," he said in reference to whether the manager should have experimented. "We've played 4-4-2 for years, especially since the boss has come in so we know which way to play.

"Obviously, we're playing Spain, world and European champions, Italy and Croatia. Three of the best teams in Europe, so they are going to have a lot of the ball so we're going to have to keep a good shape about us that tonight we didn't."

Irish Independent