herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Trap needs to Czech out his top Cat

PART of the fun and excitement of qualification for any major football tournament is the extensive debate which builds slowly towards the day when a squad is announced. Giovanni Trapattoni killed all of that a week ago.

The moment he named his squad for the friendly against the Czech Republic, it was patently obvious to everyone that his words about experimentation before and after the Euro 2012 play-off were so much fluff.

When James McClean was not included and Trapattoni then went on to say the same about Irish football's newest bright young thing, as he has done about many other promising young players, hearts sank across the land.

Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy have had a long and difficult introduction to the Ireland senior squad and there is still no certainty that either of them will be on the plane to Poland in June.

By pinning his colours on the players who qualified, Trapattoni called time on the momentum behind McClean for a call-up, but he also ripped the imagination and romance out of the next few months.

Thankfully, McClean is now in possession of a ticket to Dublin for the most important friendly Ireland will play this year -- and all that can be said is that it is better late than never.

It would have been truly ridiculous if McClean was left in Sunderland while his peers and fellow pros, young and old, gathered in Ireland.

Presumably, there's been DVD delivery in north Italy and Trap got to see what the rest of us have been marvelling at since Martin O'Neill found him on a training pitch and decided to give him "a bit of a kick around".

Every game now, he does something better than he did in the previous one and his strike rate is impressive for a winger and a Premier League novice.

If there was one moment which might have finally tilted the balance in McClean's favour, it might well have been a little cameo in the last few minutes of Sunderland's FA Cup victory over Arsenal last weekend.

With not much left on the clock and the Makems feeling the heat, McClean had to track and tackle back deep in his own half and won a good tussle with Theo Walcott.

He turned, swivelled and leathered the ball up the pitch. Job done and Sunderland's defensive line preserved.

But that wasn't enough for McClean. The second he hit his clearance, he took off up the pitch and ran the full length to make himself available.

This lad is game as they come and is playing on raw adrenaline, and the confidence of a man transformed by O'Neill's belief in him. It would have been disgraceful if he wasn't given a chance in this game.

Of course, there's every chance that Trapattoni will leave him sitting on the bench while he sends Paul Green, a player clearly beyond his depth at international level, out to show us once again that he's not up to it.

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