McClean revels in debut cameo
HE'S IRELAND'S newest hero: the man who provoked the strongest reaction from a Dublin crowd and enjoyed the warmest welcome for a debutant in many years.
But at heart he's still a fan who managed to do what many can only dream about, and won a senior international cap for the Republic of Ireland.
The reaction to James McClean's introduction as a sub, 10 minutes from the end of last night's 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic, was quite astonishing.
Other heroes such as Robbie Keane and Damien Duff never had that as they made their international debuts away from home, and you'd probably have to go back to 1991 and Roy Keane's introduction against Chile for such a strong and positive reaction from an Irish crowd.
Many, of course, wanted to see McClean in action for longer than the 10 minutes afforded him by Giovanni Trapattoni, but the man in question wasn't about to quibble.
"I can't say I'm disappointed to only get 10 minutes, I'm a fan anyway so just being here was brilliant. All I wanted to do was get on the pitch and play," said McClean, who last appeared at the Dublin 4 venue last summer as part of the Airtricity League XI which played against Manchester City in the Dublin Stupid -- sorry, that should say Super -- Cup.
"Of course I wanted to get on but so did everyone else on the bench.
"When I did get on, I was determined to enjoy it.
"It was brilliant just to get out there on the pitch and play, even to win one cap was something I always dreamed about and now I have done that. The welcome from the crowd was something I didn't expect and it really spurred me on.
"I enjoyed the reception I got, the fans were great to me. Being honest, the hair was on the back of my neck when I came on."
He has a handy habit of scoring goals for his club and while McClean failed to hit the net last night, he did play a part.
"The manager just told me to come on, play my own game and maybe put my name up in lights, and I nearly did that with the shot I had late on which was blocked," McClean added.
"It was good to get a draw and avoid defeat. It meant a lot to the players that we didn't lose, we kept plugging away until the end and it shows we have a really good character in the squad, a never-say-die attitude, the fact that we came back and got a draw. It was a good draw.
"It was a great goal for us to score, Keith Andrews did really well to lay it off for Simon Cox."
So what now for the Derry native? The Ireland crowd seems to have made up its mind that McClean should be on the plane to Poland in the summer but he says he can only do that by impressing in the Premier League.
"Now I want to get on more, get more caps. It's up to the manager whether I stay in the squad or not, the only thing I can do is keep doing well for Sunderland," McClean added.
"Now I have to go back to Sunderland and work hard for that to happen but I still enjoyed the game and the experience."