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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020
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McClean sweep: O'Neill delighted with winger's brilliant performances

Sunderland’s rise up the table has coincided with O’Neill’s discovery of the former Airtricity League man.

James McClean battles for possession with Jermaine Pennant on Saturday
James McClean battles for possession with Jermaine Pennant on Saturday
Image: Dave Thompson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

MARTIN O’NEILL HEAPED praise upon his fellow Northern Irishman, James McClean, following the young winger’s decisive role in the win over Stoke.

On Saturday the 22-year-old showed tremendous power and poise to roll his 60th minute finish underneath the advancing Thomas Sorenson.

It was the only goal of the game in treacherous wintery conditions at the Brittania.

The goal is just the latest evidence of the former Derry City star’s undoubted talent, but O’Neil (himself born in the oak leaf county) admitted:

“I didn’t know him at all until I arrived at the football club, so to see him blossoming out there has been very pleasing for everyone, obviously myself included.” O’Neill told the Guardian.

The Creggan lad, who has declared a wish to play for the Republic of Ireland, only made his full debut for the Black Cats in the New year’s day win over Manchester City. Since then he has claimed two assists and scored three times as Wearsiders march solidly away from relegation danger.

“It has been a great, great run” O’Neill added, “and more points than we could have imagined at the start of December. With the way results were, it has been very important for us. The players are playing with confidence and good self-belief and that is all you can ask for.”

With the clamour growing ever-stronger for McClean to receive an international call-up into Giovanni Trapattoni’s Poland -bound squad, O’Neill was enthusiastic about all the attributes the Premier league newcomer has shown, not least his finishing in the midst of a storm.

“He is performing brilliantly for us, he has had a great, great couple of months. Considering everything, I thought he took his goal brilliantly.”

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Sean Farrell

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