Liam Brady has backed Sunderland winger James McClean to play a “huge role” for the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2012.
McClean produced a string of impressive performances for Sunderland after breaking into the first team at the Stadium of Light under Martin O’Neill.
Those displays and a positive international debut against the Czech Republic in March earned him a place in Giovanni Trapattoni’s 23-man squad for the finals.
Speaking at the launch of the RTÉ Euro 2012 coverage, Brady said the 23-year-old could be in line for a surprise start against Croatia in the first game in Poznan on 10 June.
He said: "I think he can play a huge role. Trapattoni places a great deal of his selection on what he sees in training and whether lads are really sharp. If McClean demonstrates that, I think the way he plays is actually something he really admires.
"If he doesn’t start in the first game, I can see him getting games. I think there might be a possibility he starts in the first game."
Brady also believes Kevin Doyle will put a disappointing season at Wolves behind him and keep his place as Robbie Keane’s regular strike partner.
He said: "If Kevin (Doyle) demonstrates his sharpness and the running power that he has, I wouldn’t be surprised if Giovanni picks him as number one and Robbie as number two."
Doyle is one of a number of players in the Ireland squad with over 40 international caps to their name – a level of experience that Ireland will rely on in a group that features world and European champions Spain, and Italy.
Brady added: "They won’t be nervous about it. They help the young lads in that respect. They’ve been there and done it. They had a great tournament in Japan and Korea in 2002. I think they will be a huge help to the younger element of players in the team.
"I’m delighted we got there for the likes of Damien Duff, Shay Given, Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne. They deserve it."
Brady played under Trapattoni as a player at Juventus in the 1980s and acted as his assistant in the Ireland set-up during the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
He said the Italian will have done his homework on the opposition and expects the players to be well briefed on the challenges they face.
"He’s meticulous in his preparation. He will know exactly what the players need, training wise," said Brady.
"He will know the opposition back-to-front. He will know their strengths and weaknesses. He will get that across to the players.
"I expect Ireland to give a big account of themselves and I don’t expect ourselves, in any way shape or form, to be well beaten by any team."
Asked about Ireland’s chances of causing an upset and reaching the quarter-final, Brady emphasised the importance of the first game against Slaven Bilic’s highly-rated side.
He said: "I think it’s going to be a huge achievement if we do (reach the quarter-final). Spain are obviously good favourites to win the competition. I wonder if they can keep it going.
"To win three big competitions in a row is going to be difficult, but I certainly think that they have a great chance of making it out of the group.
"That makes it difficult for us and I have a feeling Croatia are going to do very well. I think it is going to be a tall order to get out of the group.
"But if we get a point or at least a point out of the first game against Croatia I think it gives us a great chance."