Sunderland & Everton stars set to shine

The Republic of Ireland are set to field a strong line-up for wednesday night’s clash with Czech Republic, with preparations for Euro 2012 going through the gears.

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Whilst a February friendly is normally a chore for players already feeling the burden of six months club football in their legs, this is no normal February. Irish internationals will want to be nowhere else except Dublin this week.

Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni will however be forced to make up to half a dozen changes due to injury, with fringe stars James McCarthy and the uncapped duo from Derry; Shane Duffy and James McLean all set to see game time tomorrow night. Whilst Trapattoni’s belated call-up of the latter, has been labelled by some as some sort of ”game”; this observer views it very much as a man bowing to public pressure.

Whatever the reasons for McLean’s call-up; for a man who has scored three goals in 11 appearances for Premier League Sunderland, since his debut at the turn of 2012, the future does indeed look very bright. While leaving him out of the original squad for tomorrow night’s match, Trapattoni labelled McLean as ”one for the future”; that “future” looks set to be this summer as Ireland’s dearth of attacking options looks set to be appeased with his presence.

Whilst fellow Derry man Shane Duffy will be looking to make his senior international debut for the Republic tomorrow night, he has spoken of the hurdles and boundaries he’s had to cross and the abuse he’s received since switching allegiance from the North to Republic of Ireland. The last 24 hours have “made it all worthwhile” says the 20 year-old centre-half. ”Coming from Derry to represent in Ireland, words can’t express how I felt when I got the call-up. I’m not being disrespectful to the North, but the Republic of Ireland is my country, I will be honoured to play for them and proud to be in the squad.”

Both McLean and Duffy have stated that they played for the North at underage level “to get noticed.” The phrase ”Plastic Paddy” has frequently been used to refer to Republic of Ireland players who haven’t hailed from the 26 counties. Such has been the hooks and crooks that these players have used to play for the “Boys in Green” (and play at major tournaments) that one feels there was more than a hint of accuracy in the aforementioned jibe. Such are the lengths that McLean and Duffy have had to go through to play for their country and although they have switched allegiance, the term “Plastic Paddy” is one which could never be levelled at them however.


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