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Tuesday 21 November 2017

O'Neill puts out welcome mat for McClean

NEW Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill believes he can persuade Sunderland's James McClean to make a U-turn on declaring for the Republic of Ireland.

McClean, who represented the IFA at age-group levels before rejecting Worthington's call-up to the senior side last year in favour of a possible - but as yet unfulfilled - future with the Republic.

O'Neill believes he can convince the 22-year-old Derry native his future lies with the North.

"James McClean is eligible for Northern Ireland so of course he's on my radar," he said. "Whilst respecting the wishes of the players I'll be doing everything in my power and my remit to emphasise to them that their long-term futures lie with the Northern Ireland national team.

"Any player who is still eligible for Northern Ireland will come under consideration."

O'Neill officially begins work as Nigel Worthington's successor on February 1 but met the media at the Irish Football Association's Windsor Avenue headquarters yesterday and wasted no time in laying out his plans for the future.

O'Neill wants to maximise the limited resources available to him by welcoming back into the fold a host of players who have not been involved recently through retirement, selection or - most controversially - a desire to represent the Republic of Ireland like McLean and Stoke City's Marc Wilson .

"I will make the national team fully inclusive for all players eligible to play," said O'Neill.

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