by Glenn Mason
James McClean slipped through Dublin Airport almost unnoticed last Sunday morning as he arrived to join up with the Republic squad for the first time.
In his own words on Twitter he was 'buzzing', but there was little buzz among his fellow passengers on the early flight from Newcastle.
The excesses of a night Saturday night on the Toon meant many kept their heads down and did not notice as the man of the moment walked and sat among them.
There were few nudges of recognition and acknowledgments for the rising star of Irish football.
McClean's low-key arrival in the country contrasted sharply to the almost overwhelming reception that greeted him when he made his debut as a substitute against the Czech Republic.
Most of the 37,741 fans stood to applaud the man who still hopes to force his way into Giovanni Trapattoni's squad for the European Championships this summer.
There were even cheers when he went out along the sideline to warm up, before he strode on to the same patch of grass where he excelled for an Airtricity League XI in July.
But what did the 22-year-old from Derry think of the reaction to his introduction.
“There were goosebumps and it was a tremendous reception,” he told a scrum of journalists after the game.
“It is something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a boy. It something that will live with me for the rest of my life.”
McClean’s all-action style at Sunderland has earned him rave reviews from team-mates and opposition alike, and he hopes to similarly impress Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli.
“They just said to go on and play my own game and be confident,” he said when asked about his pre-match instructions.
“They said ‘don’t forget to track back’, which I do normally anyway. ‘Go on and enjoy it and be confident’.”
He may have been asked to play a slightly different role to that at Sunderland, but McClean is more than happy just to be with the squad.
He said: “I know Sheasy (John O’Shea) and Westy (Kieren Westwood) from Sunderland and Shane Duffy from Derry.
“The rest of the lads have made me feel really welcome and part of the squad. They are a great bunch of lads and hopefully I’ll be in many more squads in the years to come.
“Just to get on and make my debut was an honour in itself. I was happy to get my first touches of the ball. I’m delighted.”
McClean and the rest of the squad were fitted for their official Euro 2012 suits during the week, but despite his impressive debut last night, it will still take a major development if he is to get the chance to wear it.
“That’s not my decision. That’s the manager’s decision. If I continue to play well for Sunderland, then you never know,” he said diplomatically when asked about his chances of making the squad.
What is for certain is that he won’t go so unnoticed in Dublin again if he continues his rise in the game.